2014: You might want to check out my update here if you’re interested in developments in the flu shot!
Well here I am, just after posting about The Year of Health and Veggies, and now I’m sick!
A little over two years ago, I went to bed with a slight headache, and woke up in the middle of the night with the worst chills I had ever had- I thought there was something seriously wrong with me and that I was going to die! When I had a high fever by morning, I knew I had the flu. First time! I was sick for a total of about 3 weeks, and it was pretty miserable.
Two days ago, I woke up with a cough so bad I kept thinking I would vomit. I went to work, but was exhausted all day- I even took a nap on the floor of my office during lunch. I took my temp at work and it was “normal” (though a little higher than usual for me), but a few hours later I had those awful chills again. I was piled under several blankets and couldn’t get warm for hours, until I got really hot and sweaty later. Horrible muscle aches, headache and other yucky symptoms. Most likely flu again (though with this cough getting worse, could be something more).
Now, I know it’s pretty cool to be in my sick bed- I’ve got SVU on the TV, plenty of magazines and devices to keep me entertained, but the flu is awful. I have spent hours in the last two days shivering and teeth chattering and then sweating while everything hurts. I’m constantly coughing, my lungs often feel like they’re on fire, and I’ve been miserable. This is no fun.
I also might have prevented this.
If you’re reading a vegan blog, you probably know that the flu shot (“influenza vaccination,” properly titled) is incubated in eggs, making them inherently not vegan (both the shot and the nasal mist version). This of course, makes for an ethical quandary for some vegans. As it happens, I have an allergy to eggs, so the flu shot is not a quandary- I’ve been avoiding on those grounds. There is newer research that suggests that it’s okay to get the flu shot if you have an allergy, but generally speaking, that should be done in a doctor’s office (as opposed to a clinic at work, in the community or from a pharmacist).
I make my living in part by prescribing medication to people. Although there are plenty of medications that don’t have animal products in them, there is no such thing as a medication sold in the US that has not been tested on animals. My personal philosophy has been that if I really need a medication, I want the “most vegan” version available (as in, trying to avoid medications made with animal products), but that I will take something with an animal product if it’s the only version available.
Now, after avoiding the non-vegan flu shot, I’ve ended up taking the non-vegan Tamiflu (made with gelatin). Does that fall under the “needed” category? I’m really worried about the worsening cough and I’m afraid I’m going to end up with pneumonia, so I’m categorizing that as a yes. Although I’m enjoying the whole time to read magazines part (now that I’m less tired and not sleeping the whole day, thanks to the Tamiflu), the flu is nothing to joke about. I have asthma, which puts me at higher risk of complications, and I am not kidding about this cough. I’m not risking a hospitalization where I’ll end up on even more meds if I can avoid it.
The subject of mandated influenza vaccinations is a very hot topic in the vegan community, with the recent development of a vegan being fired from her position at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. More than that, a court has found that she can sue the hospital on religious discrimination grounds (though of course, there is no guarantee that she will be successful).
What to know about influenza vaccines and veganism?
- Until recently, all influenza vaccines were incubated in eggs.
- Two new vaccines are under development/recently released that do not use egg, but are not vegan (due to insect/mammal cells).
- Tamiflu, the treatment to shorten course and severity of the flu is not vegan (contains gelatin).
- Vegan healthcare providers have been fired from various institutions for refusing a flu shot.
- Currently in Ohio, a vegan who was fired from a hospital for refusing a flu shot is suing on the basis of religious discrimination; this case is still pending.
- Currently, the CDC is reporting widespread flu outbreak throughout almost the entire country.
- Across the US, 37 children have died from the flu since the beginning of the flu season (end of September), through the end of last week (data may change as new deaths are reported).
- Even with the immunization, the flu is not entirely preventable- the CDC considers this year’s immunization to be about 62% effective.
Do you know what you’ll do?
The flu shot is not foolproof, and there are reasons both for and against the shot.
Me? I’ve had the flu now twice in just over two years. I don’t want it again.