I get to high-five a baby today!

Because I got vaccinated against the flu yesterday!

I also get to high-five the elderly, pregnant women, and people who are immunocompromised.  In fairness, I can’t spot the last category by eye, so maybe I can look up the prevalence statistics and high-five the appropriate proportion of passersby.

These are all categories of people who are at higher risk from the flu and may not be able to be inoculated themselves.  They depend on herd immunity, enough people like me and my fellow inoculees to create a firebreak, and slow the spread of the disease.  This year, it may be especially important to go out and get vaccinated, as the CDC will not be able to track the spread of the flu or intervene for the duration of the government shutdown.

So go forth and get vaccinated, blog-readers!  And look upon babies with pride!  And, as part of this year’s gentle nag, I’m going to create a vaccination check-in comment thread for this post.  If you’ve gotten your flu shot, post there, and I’ll donate $5/reader (up to $100) to the Against Malaria Foundation.

– — –

I’m  a big philosophy of medicine nerd, so it was funny to experience a phenomena I’ve written about when I got inoculated.  I didn’t get a shot; I got an attenuated (weakened) live virus via a nasal spray.  It was much less uncomfortable than a shot, so much so, that I noticed I felt mildly anxious about whether it worked.  After all, it hadn’t hurt.

Magical thinking about medicine is common.  We tend to expect powerful interventions to have powerful side effects.  When people were first being inoculated against smallpox, people had trouble believing that such a mild intervention could protect you against a powerful disease.  Mind you, the mild intervention was cutting your arm, so you could put smallpox pus into the wound, but people were skeptical enough to prefer inoculation regimes that had you drink diluted mercury til you vomited.  That’s the kind of treatment you could feel truly confident in.

And I did snigger a bit at John Adams and others when I read about this approach to treatment in Pox Americana, so it was a bit humbling to be reminded yesterday that I fall prey to the same biases.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as a statistician for a school in Washington D.C. by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • LeahLibresco

    Flu shot/spray Roll Call

    Ok, team, you’re on your honor. Check in here if you got inoculated (and want me to donate to Against Malaria in your honor). If you took family members or friends with you, you get credit for them, too.

    • Irenist

      Self, wife, and baby all got our flu shots. Thanks.

    • Adam

      Self, wife, and daughter all got flu shots as well.

      Note: Pregnant women are especially urged to get the flu shot. Influenza can be much worse if you are pregnant, occasionally leading to ICU stays. In addition, the vaccine helps protect your unborn baby from flu as well (after he/she is born).

      • GFPchicken

        At the same time, flu shots haven’t been tested in pregnant women (they’re Category C, meaning they have been tested and found OK in pregnant animals, but have not been tested in pregnant humans), which is the reason I’m not getting one.

    • NJMKW

      I got the FluMist. Theodora got her first shot but gets another in a month — apparently that’s how you do the first time!

    • Kristen inDallas

      Got flu shot as part of standard first trimester check-up… which means baby peanut will be innoculated as well. Oldest son got the nasal spray and we KNOW it worked becase whole family immediately started expiriencing flu symptoms (fever/nausea) the next day. :)

    • ACN

      Took myself in yesterday!

    • Nisan

      I got it too!

    • J.R. Baldwin

      I got the flu shot in Dec 2012; I got another vaccine against whooping cough, etc. two days after Grace was born! (If that counts)

    • Smithgift

      Got mine a couple weeks ago. I figured a little prick was better than the flu, though in retrospect I wanted to get one last year for more baby-high-fiving reasons.

    • Mariana Baca

      I got my flu shot today! I looked up information for my boyfriend to get flu shotted in his current foreign country, I’ll update if he gets his shot in the next few days.

      • LeahLibresco

        Yay! Truly the telos of love is enabling flu shots.

        Actually, I should bother my young swain…

    • emd04

      I totally got mine. Thank you for making this a “thing”–we immunosuppressed organ transplant people salute you!

  • Donalbain

    Placebo injections are more powerful than placebo pills. I *adore* that fact.

    • Irenist

      Indeed. I imagine the placebo effect of acupuncture would be even greater: lots of needles, along with relaxing music, bedside manner, and all sorts of other affective cues.

  • Caroline M.

    Thanks for the reminder! And isn’t herd immunity fascinating? My husband was a biology major and particularly interested in evolutionary biology; this topic could really get him going :)

  • guest

    I’m British, so the elderly, pregnant women, and people who are immunocompromised are all inoculated free by the NHS. I don’t think I will be having a flu shot, as I’m a healthy adult.


    The only baby I’m likely to be handling will have had her shots for sure, as the mum is a doctor in training.

    The placebo effect is interesting, isn’t it?

    • Mariana Baca

      I’ve noticed this is true of many European countries — flu shot is free for at risk groups but not for others. I’m pretty sure this is a financial decision (healthcare costs of healthy people getting flu is minimal compared to inoculating the population). There is no reason everyone shouldn’t get the flu shot if they don’t have risk factors — if the price OOP is not horrible, I recommend you get one anyway. (plus, there is an 80% chance to *not get the flu* after inoculation which is great). If you are out in public, you can be a vector for the disease.

  • TheresaL

    I was inoculated this morning. And I took my daughter to get hers a few weeks ago.

    The title of the post might make some people think they can’t have their baby receive a flu shot. But they can. It just takes two doses a month apart, so it will take longer for them to be completely protected. And they’ll give babies, pregnant and lactating women a preservative-free vaccine, so none of them can use concerns about mercury to avoid it.

    • Jenny

      Babies under six months old are not eligible for the flu shot.