In case you are curious about my situation- I didn’t get a flu shot again this year. As a child, I had been diagnosed with an egg allergy, so I had been avoiding on those grounds. Last year a new egg-free (but not vegan) flu shot became available- except this year, I couldn’t find it anywhere. Not through my employer (I work in healthcare), my primary care doctor, local flu clinics or even the allergist.
Which brings me to the allergy- because of some other sinus problems I’ve been having, I saw an allergist at my primary care’s suggestion. Turns out, I’m no longer allergic to eggs (actually, I have very little in the way of allergies, so I’m still working on the sinus issue). Ergo, I can have the regular flu shot.
This brought me to a dilemma: now that I have the option, what do I actually do?
For this year, I decided that because it’s already well into flu season and it takes a bit of time to build immunity after getting the shot, the benefits would not be as clear cut for this flu season. Mind you, flu season typically goes until April, so this is still a decision that individuals can make in January or February.
Interestingly, in New York, where I live and work, a law went into effect this year for health care providers, basically requiring anyone who works in a hospital, nursing home, or most other state-regulated facilities are required to have the flu shot. In the event of a religious/philosophical or medical reason for not getting the shot, the health care provider must wear a mask at all times while on duty where patients might be, except while eating.
This regulation covers an awful lot of health care providers, but for now, doesn’t apply to me. Again, I don’t have to address the issue, but that could always change.
So what should you know about the flu this year?
- There is still no vegan flu shot. There is an egg-free one, but you may have difficulty finding it. An allergist is likely the best way to find one.
- Still no word yet on the Ohio case in which a vegan hospital employee who was fired after refusing the flu shot sued on the basis of religious grounds.
- New York has a new law that requires most health care workers to get the flu shot or wear a mask.
- Since the flu mutates every year, having had it last year does not protect you this year- and having had one strain of the flu this year does not protect you from getting another one.
- This year’s vaccine covers four flu strains, rather than the usual three.
- It’s impossible to know just how effective a vaccine for any given year is until the season is over, but in past years, efficacy ranges from 33-66% in recent years for particular strains.
For more information on the 2013-2014 flu season, check out the CDC’s page.
For now, I’m taking it year by year. I know when next fall rolls around I’ll have another decision to make- and I’m not so sure yet.