“I’m sorry your January has been rough, Jasmine.”
I read the email and had to pause. For one, because I legitimately thought that we were in the middle of February, and two because I really had just experienced a wild ride of a month.
I began 2020, speeding through the snowcapped Grapevine mountains from the Central Valley to Los Angeles. I brought in the New Year with my sister in shorts outside at midnight watching illegal fireworks shoot from backyards. Local residents twirled sparklers over dampened lawns in 40-degree weather, and I smiled as we took turns watching our exhaled breaths become visible against the pitch-black night sky. By January 4th, I had already hiked so many miles in the cold and been to so many holiday and birthday parties that I was for sure I needed to put down my Christmas tree because it had to have been March by now. However, I’m glad I took my Christmas stuff down the next day because, after that next week of traveling to Texas, I would actually almost die because of a case of the flu.
It did not even take a full day of flying that first Tuesday of the month before I started to feel the symptoms of what I thought was a cold, hitting hard. I bought an expensive pack of tissues with acid-trip-looking cartoons on them and a packet of cough drops that made my mouth smell like what I assume the Fizzy Lifting drinks’ room in Willy Wonky’s OSHA-nightmare of a factory smells like. I whipped through the Walgreens parking lot the moment I landed and dropped even more money on Day Quill. I wouldn’t know until today, the day before February, that I should have invested money into a stock fund of whatever company owned Day Quill after consuming a diet of just that and different soups every day like an old person.
The flu hit me so freaking hard that at one point, I did panic like a true Catholic and decided to search for my pink Baptism rosary. I thought, maybe if I prayed one of those bad boys out (just in case) and that I could slide right into heaven last minute because I may or may not die right now. I had been sick the whole month, but there was a week in particular that I stuck in an endless 102-degree fever nightmare just drifting in and out of consciousness. It wouldn’t have mattered if I was high the entire time because I couldn’t concentrate on anything, and I’m just really lucky that I didn’t do enough damage by not visiting a medical professional to keep my brain that way. The flu kills, but it all could have been avoidable.
I got more texts and calls after the fifth deathbed selfie I posted with my thermometer on Twitter, but by then, I had avoided the bright light at the end of the tunnel and was getting ready for my first week back to work. I updated them on my current health status and then brought up the Netflix docuseries, Pandemic, that had been playing in the background during my week in hell. I was made to feel so incredibly stupid for my past beliefs about the flu shot while watching the incredibly intelligent woman form Oregon spill ignorant word vomit about raising unvaccinated. I had always believed in vaccines, but a couple of colds contracted after flu shots in the past had me avoiding them. I realized that it wasn’t just me when I spoke to my friends and family on the phone.
They each talked about how they avoided the flu shot every year, and every single one of them had also gotten the flu pretty bad too. Everyone except for my mom (the healthcare professional who was smart enough to get the flu shot) had gotten the flu in the past month. She had gotten a cold over the holidays, but she wasn’t knocked out for a week like I was.
Here’s the thing, I get it. I understand why so many feel not sure about the flu shot. It’s not guaranteed prevention, but it can also curve you from getting the “oh my God maybe I should write a will” kind of flu, or shorten your bought of illness. Getting the annual flu vaccine is a safe, effective way to prevent the flu (except in those rare occasions as with anything). The vaccine causes your body to develop antibodies to several strains of the influenza virus and help protect your body against infection. Without it, you’re rolling the dice on a game that the CDC estimates has resulted in between 9 million and 45 million illnesses, between 140,000 and 810,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 and 61,000 deaths annually since 2010.
If I had to do it all again I would get the flu shot. So far, 8,200 people have died and 140,000 people have been hospitalized during the 2019-2020 flu season, according to preliminary estimates from the CDC and we still have more of the season left to go. It’s not the Coronavirus you really have to watch out for since we’re screening all over the world for that— it’s the flu. As a woman of science, I should have stuck to my initial guns about vaccines and left my feelings out of it.
Recent studies show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60% among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are well-matched to the flu vaccine. The current flu vaccines tend to work better against influenza B (which everyone who I spoke to had!) and influenza A(H1N1) viruses and offer lower protection against influenza A(H3N2) viruses.
In other words (or TLDR), getting the flu was avoidable, but I was too stupid to get the damn shot. Not to rip off Nike, but just do it.
I at least urge you to do your own research as I did. My favorite pastime is watching documentaries for a reason. I secretly love conducting graduate-level research after the fact and writing about it on the internet. However, it would help if you got used to the idea of doing more than a couple of Google searches before writing your opinion down into Biblical stone. Not because some overly-dramatic writer is bugging you about it through long-read-blog-form, but because you should want to know more about the world around you and how it may be affecting you and your family.