Why flu shots do not impart invincibility

Every Winter there are people who faithfully line up to get their flu shots. These visits are announced well ahead of schedule to encourage mass vaccination. However, because I don’t deal well with sharp pointy objects – especially when they are aimed at me – and also don’t believe in the success of this program, I avoid it. It is not to say that these vaccination measures are redundant. They are pretty useful if there is only one specific type of bug. In reality, that one bug loves to throw a good party and invites all its mates over for a bash. Not only that, those bugs are also pretty friendly with just about anyone really, and they tend to overstay their welcome.

Anyway, whenever my colleagues tried to persuade me to get the flu shot, I let them know how much I believe in “herd immunity”. Yes, that is an actual immunology term and not something that I made up. Yes, I know I had those two words in inverted commas. I would try changing them, but it is rather hard to do on the iPad…my fingers can’t tap in front of them. “They give out sweets like Freddo at the end”, cajoled one friend in a bid to appeal to my penchant for sweet things. Sorry, but not even Koko black chocolate is going to cut the mustard. So the rest of the lab trooped to get their shots and I made off to buy a snack – a delicious one that was pain-free.

They came back convinced that they now were immune to the cold/flu. I say cold/flu because there are some sticklers out there who insist it is a cold or a flu. It was ironic then that they were the first to succumb to the bug(s). How could it be? They were bewildered. It did not seem fair that I was still healthy and eating cookies to my heart’s content. They couldn’t even ask for a refund because the shot was free. It was a grave injustice as far as they were concern. Did I laugh in their faces? No, I didn’t, because laughing at someone’s misfortune is ungracious and not something that I do. Blogging about them on the other hand is perfectly acceptable. Deep down, I felt a twinge of panic. This year’s herd seemed to have dwindled, I swear I didn’t spread my belief of herd immunity that far!

My worry only increased when I travelled on the metro trains. It literally is a vehicle for bugs as commuters coughed, sneezed and spread the love. They couldn’t help it of course, but that did not lessen my desire for teleportation to be achievable within the next few seconds. After a few weeks, the inevitable happened. I got bounced by the cold/flu. In between feeling downright sick and exhibiting all symptoms that screamed for healthy people to take cover, I experienced incoherent unkind thoughts. These included: (1) who was the one who passed it to me, (2) how I was going to carve out their spleen using only a spoon, and importantly (3) how could I get better faster and then repeat (2) with the modification of another body part. As well as that, I raged at the fact that I had to watch everyone else eat ice cream whilst consigned to a plain diet. I am well aware that these thoughts border on being neurotic and murderous, but in my defense I was kind of taking every medication over the counter to quench the symptoms. You name it, I most likely have digested it. From this experience, it can hardly be lost on anyone that I make a terrible patient look positively angelic. Usually, I like to think of myself as a pretty amiable and happy person.

So thank you to those of you who very kindly put up with me and tried to make me feel better with warm tea and turning up the heaters until it felt tropical instead of Winter. I have not changed my mind about flu shots, and next year you will still see me heading out for a pain-free hot chocolate shot!