Are flu shots your thing? My oldest brother asked me this about a month ago. It didn’t come out of left field. I’ve been on a little bit of a flu shot rant for the past year. I wrote an opinion piece for our paper about the vital importance of vaccinating children for influenza. The local news picked it up and I’ve done a few television interviews about this as well.
Maybe his question had something to do with the text message I sent as we were firming up plans for our ten person sibling dinner: “Don’t even think about showing up for dinner until your kids have their flu shots.” For me, this was a loving reminder for my brothers, their wives and my ten nieces and nephews. Someone asked if I could bring their shot to dinner. Again, this was rooted in truth not out of left field; I have brought flu shots home before. My youngest turned six months at the height of flu season. So, I did what any pediatrician mother would do. I brought a flu shot home and asked my nurse practitioner mother to come over and give it to him (while babysitting, of course). And I even brought a flu shot to family dinner in the past for my brother. I gave it to him in my kitchen (after all, he was a new dad and I get how crucial it is to “cocoon” newborns from any flu exposure). “Pass the butter, and my flu shot,” they joke.
So, are flu shots my thing? Well, I am in primary care and the short answer is yes. Shingles and pneumonia shots are also my thing. Car seats are my thing. Fluoridated toothpaste is my thing. Discussing the importance of healthy eating patterns and exercise is my thing. High blood pressure treatment is my thing. And flu shots most definitely fall into the broad category of my thing.
But really, as a primary care doc, preventable death is my thing. And flu shots prevent death. 80,000 people died of flu last year in the United States compared to about 40,000 the previous year. 183 children died last year. About 80% of kids who have died of flu did not have their flu shot. So, yes I guess flu shots are my thing. I would happily see healthy patients all day long. Trust me that I’m in your corner on this one. I give myself and my family our flu shots and I encourage you to get yours too.