Just lately they have been vaccinating people against influenza here. That’s not a particularly unusual thing in the winter, I guess. What I did find unusual was the letter I was sent about it. All of the following quotes are genuine and come directly from this letter.
“Dear Sir,” it said. “We are preparing for the 2015 influenza vaccination campaign.” Ooh, I thought. It’s a campaign now! I love campaigns.
“From our records we note that last year you declined the influenza vaccine.” That’s true, I did. “You may recall we had an outbreak of influenza that occurred in the prison in April this year when at least 60 patients were affected, with many being medically isolated within their cells and being extremely unwell.” Oh dear. This sounds very serious: “Due to your age or medical condition,” My WHAT? “this makes you at increased…” No, no. My WHAT?! “Due to your age or medical condition“? I’m 30! I’m fit! I’m healthy! What do you know that I don’t?! Is there something wrong with me? You did take a blood sample last year. I didn’t hear about any results. I assumed it was all ok. What have I got? Am I dying? “Due to your age or medical condition this makes you at increased risk from the effects of influenza which can be severe and/or fatal.” Oh crap, I am dying. Unless, am I already dead? Is this what hell is like?
“I would urge you to have the vaccine when called up this year. Please be welcome to discuss this with the Primary Care team.” Well, I suppose I should. I don’t want to die. And after all, my age or medical condition means that I am at increased risk. I have been a bit chilly recently.
“Please take time to read the enclosed leaflet and to read the sheet we have compiled detailing common myths surrounding the influenza vaccine.” Oh, good. At least that will tell me what I’m up against. I certainly seem to have a fight on my hands. Ah, here it is.
“Am I at increased risk from the effects of flu? Flu can affect anyone,” Hey! That’s me! I’m anyone! “but if you have a long-term health condition the effects of flu can make it worse even if the condition is well managed and you normally feel well.” Oh. Well, I don’t have a condition, but I do usually feel well, so maybe I am at risk. “You should have the flu vaccine if you have one of the following long-term conditions: A heart problem;” No. “A chest complaint or breathing difficulties;” No. “A kidney disease;” No. “Lowered immunity due to disease or treatment;” No. “Liver disease;” No. “Had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack;” No. “Diabetes;” No. “A neurological condition;” Does kookiness count? “A problem with your spleen;” I don’t even know what my spleen is. That’s not a problem is it? “You should also consider having the flu vaccination if you are aged 55 or older.” Ok. Wait, 55? I’m 30. And I don’t have any of those health problems. I thought my age or medical condition meant I was at increased risk of severe and/or fatal influenza? Something isn’t right here.
“We strongly recommend that even if you were vaccinated last year, you should be vaccinated again this year. In addition, protection from the flu vaccine may only last six months so you should have the flu vaccine each season.” Wait a minute, six months? But you said that the 60 people who got sick at the end of April suffered because they hadn’t had the vaccine. If the vaccine was given out in October, and it only lasts six months then it wouldn’t matter if they were vaccinated would it? In fact, I’m sure some of those who got sick had actually had the vaccination. I heard that having the vaccine can actually make you sick.
“Does having the vaccine give you flu? No, it doesn’t. Your arm may feel a bit sore where you were injected, and some people get a slight temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days afterwards, but other reactions are very rare.” It doesn’t say how rare though. Um, so if they are the side affects of the vaccine, what are the symptoms of flu?
“The most common symptoms of flu include fever, chills, headaches and aching muscles.” Hold on, that’s pretty much the same. Are you sure the vaccine doesn’t give you flu? “No, it doesn’t.” But the effects are the same though. And you did say my age or medical condition means I’m at risk when, in fact, I am young and don’t have any medical conditions: I’m not sure I should risk it.
“You could become seriously ill and have to go to hospital.” If I was in a real at risk group, yes. “In the worst cases flu can result in death.” Now you just sound desperate. Are you on commission?
“This year’s vaccine protects against the swine flu virus. This is because the virus is expected to be circulating this year.”