Does anybody actually know if getting a flu shot actually works? I’ve gotten mine for the past few years, for no other reason than it was free, and I haven’t gotten the flu, but I don’t know whether or not that has anything to do with getting the shot or if I just have a superior top of the shelf immune system, because I don’t think that I’ve ever actually gotten the flu. I don’t think it’s genetic, because I remember family members being sick with it when I was younger. I remember my mom getting sick and having to take the medicine Tamaflu, and since her name is Tammy, it seemed an appropriate nickname for her. On the other hand, every time the topic of flu shots come up, there is inevitably a group of people who hold fast to the belief that flu shots don’t actually work, and in fact make you more susceptible to the illness. I think those people are crazy, but the truth is, I don’t really know. When I started working at Publix in 2014, it was the first time I ever remember thinking about getting a flu shot, since that was one of the perks offered up by the company, and I’m not one to let free things go unused. I don’t like shots, despite being in my mid-twenties, but I was torn, have someone stab in the arm with a needle, or let this free benefit go to waste. It was literally a last second decision, debating back in forth in my head on the day that the physician was at our store, finally deciding to do it and catching him just before he left. The shot wasn’t that bad, which is probably a good thing, since I tend to let bad experiences shape how I feel about certain things going forward, but this wasn’t one of those times, and the following year I got another flu shot, and then 2016 rolled around, and I wasn’t planning on getting one, but a trip to Walmart changed my mind completely.
It’s funny how a single trip to Walmart has the ability to influence and change your life in a way that few other things can, like before Walmart, I always looked down on store brand items, but one time my grandmother bought the Walmart brand cinnamon toast crunch, and it became my favorite cereal, and was far superior than the original name brand, or the time I went for a few groceries, and walked away with a new job having spotted the job application kiosk out of the corner of my eye as I went to the bathroom. Unfortunately the job never worked out, and I’m too old eat sugary cereal on a regular basis, but you see what I’m saying about how a single trip to this place can eerily impact the course of your life, and September of 2016, a year ago, was no different. I was walking past the pharmacy, probably to get Aleve, the only brand of medicine that seems to work on my annoyingly intense headaches that I get from time to time, and the only time I ever walk past the pharmacy unless of course I’m picking up a prescription. As I walked past, the pharmacist said hello and asked if I’d gotten my flu shot yet. I said no. The truth is I hadn’t even thought about getting a flu shot since I moved to Memphis and was no longer employed by a company that offered it for free to their employees, and I told the pharmacist as much. She asked to see my insurance card, telling me that most everyone’s insurance covered flu shots, which made my ears perk up immediately, the word free acting for me like the word “outside” does for my dogs, immediately grabbing my attention.
I obliged, handing over the card, and waited patiently while the information was being keyed into the computer to check on my credentials, half hoping I would be able to get the shot for free, the other half of me once again succumbing the voices within me telling me that needles hurt. I was covered, and since I was going to be kicked off my dad’s insurance at the end of the month, I figured the responsible thing to do was to go ahead and get the shot while I had the chance to do so for free. I sat down behind a little divider, separating me from the rest of humanity inside of the store, which I was more than okay with since there was about a twenty percent chance that the shot would sting and would start bawling uncontrollably, so privacy in this case, was a godsend. The pharmacist pulled out her necessary instruments to perform the procedure, a sanitizing alcohol wipe, a band aid, and the needle, setting them down gently on the TV tray that had become the makeshift operating table. She must have seen me wince at the sight of the needle, or maybe like a dog, pharmacists can smell fear, because she immediately started telling me about this new technology, something that made shots virtually pain free. It was a circular band aid looking thing that she stuck to my arm after it was sanitized. In the center of the circle was a see through film that the needle was supposed to be stuck through, and somehow, some way, that was supposed to eliminate the pain of the needle. I was skeptical. Unless that see through film had a very strong invisible pain killer on it that would attach itself to the end of the needle and hit your bloodstream and take effect immediately, I didn’t see it could possible stop the pain. She stuck the needle through and guess what, I was right. It wasn’t less painful, it was worse than any shot I’d ever gotten, and then, the cherry on top, a bump immediately appeared in the spot on my arm where the needle had been stuck, which wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t swollen up even more overnight and become unbearably itchy by the next morning. It was horrible, but I didn’t get the flu last year, so maybe it worked.
I just got an email this morning informing me that I can get a free flu shot this year thanks to the bank I work for, but last year’s experience has me feeling a little bit hesitant. I don’t really want to go through the pain and agony of what seemed to be a clear allergic reaction to the flu shot, especially when I’m not convinced that it actually works. Right now I’m leaning heavily towards not doing it. The worst thing that can happen is I’ll get the flu. I’ve still got more than eighty hours of paid sick time that’s going to be wasted if I don’t use them by the end of this year, so maybe getting violently ill wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Maybe I’ll find out in the coming months.