It looks as if this will be the first season in over 10 years that we won't get our flu shots. We started the habit long before flu immunizations were recommended to the general public. One year there was a particularly nasty strain that was sidelining its victims for about two weeks. We looked at our schedules, particularly those of our children, and decided that we didn't want to deal with the consequences of losing that much time. We considered my father—elderly and with respiratory problems, and thus vaccinated—who had been our regular February visitor since we'd moved to Florida. We'd get sick; he'd stay healthy. Seemed like an obvious choice to us.

Since then, we've enjoyed flu-free years, a blessing even for the young-and-healthy. This year, with the loss of half of the U.S. flu vaccine supply due to the Chiron debacle, it seems prudent to leave the remaining supply for those who need it most (source: Centers for Disease Control):

  • People 65 years of age and older
  • Children ages 6 months to 23 months
  • Adults and children 2 years of age and older with chronic lung or heart disorders including heart disease and asthma
  • Pregnant women
  • Adults and children 2 years of age and older with chronic metabolic diseases (including diabetes), kidney diseases, blood disorders (such as sickle cell anemia), or weakened immune systems, including persons with HIV/AIDS
  • Children and teenagers, 6 months to 18 years of age, who take aspirin daily
  • Residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities
  • Household members and out-of-home caregivers of infants under the age of 6 months (Children under the age of 6 months cannot be vaccinated.
  • Healthcare workers who provide direct, hands-on care to patients

It appears that we are both too young and too old. We're not qualified for the FluMist™ vaccine (live, attenuated influenza vaccine), which is not recommended for

  • persons aged <5 years or those aged >50 years;
  • persons with asthma, reactive airways disease or other chronic disorders of the pulmonary or cardiovascular systems; persons with other underlying medical conditions, including such metabolic diseases as diabetes, renal dysfunction, and hemoglobinopathies; or persons with known or suspected immunodeficiency diseases or who are receiving immunosuppressive therapies;
  • children or adolescents receiving aspirin or other salicylates (because of the association of Reye syndrome with wild-type influenza infection);
  • persons with a history of GBS;
  • pregnant women; or
  • persons with a history of hypersensitivity, including anaphylaxis, to any of the components of LAIV or to eggs.

We could probably get the regular vaccine if we tried hard enough. Yesterday, our local Publix was still handing out flyers advertising its vaccine program, and I gather that many non-medical sites are relying on people's own determination whether they need the immunization or not. But we are healthy, have no small children in the house to worry about, and have little exposure to schoolchildren (a highly-infectious population). Unless and until sufficient supply is available, it's better we abstain. My main concern will be for the people we visit this winter...not enough concern to stay home, however.

I understand that doctors' offices are being strict about who gets the vaccine and who doesn't, not trusting in people's general good sense and good will (probably with good reason). However, I will admit to hoping that the supply is sufficient to cover two additional populations:

  • nursing mothers who would prefer to be their babies' primary source of immunization; and
  • college students whose schedules make them both more vulnerable to infection and less able to handle disruption.
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, October 9, 2004 at 7:30 am | Edit
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Is that a hint?

Posted by Janet on Saturday, October 09, 2004 at 9:42 am
Maybe. :) Heard anything from the school? I suspect they'd be reserving all their doses for the hospital, but you never know.

Posted by SursumCorda on Saturday, October 09, 2004 at 9:49 am
I just read that there are a limited number of reduced-thimerosal flu vaccines available. (Some reports say "thimersal-free," but I'm more inclined to believe the former designation.)

Thimerosal is an ethylmercury-containing perservative that was common in vaccines, but has been removed from the traditional early-childhood doses. This morning's Orlando Sentinel has an article on the subject. It's free to read, but you have to register to access it. (Those already registered with the Hartford Courant or another Tribune paper can use that username and password.)

I don't know enough to take sides in the debate, though I have to agree with the idea that it's good to keep even small amounts of mercury out of a child's system. However, in the spirit of "you can find a study to prove anything," here's an article about research that suggests children who have received the thimerosal-containing vaccines are less prone to developmental disorders!

Posted by SursumCorda on Sunday, October 10, 2004 at 9:16 am
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