Oh, for the good old days when nobody gave a damn whether or not I got the flu. Whenever a new epidemic came along, people would caution that there was not enough vaccine for everybody, but that children and the elderly had higher risk factors for the flu virus. Far be it from me to hog all the vaccine when seniors in China were hacking up phlegm balls the size of grapefruits.
The first time my doctor asked if I’d had my flu shot, I thought he was just joking. “Ha, ha, pull the other one.” He wasn’t. This week Wal-Mart has a booth set up with nurses dispensing flu vaccine at discount roll-back prices. I hustle past, head held low. I don’t want to make eye contact with the nurses who are looking expectantly at me.
These teenagers are so fresh out of nursing school that they still have the price tags hanging off of their scrubs. You know that they only volunteered for this gig so they could be in the right place when Play Stations went on sale. I don’t really want them brandishing needles near me while they’re texting on their cell phones.
So how are they picking me out of a crowd as a likely candidate for a flu shot? Sure, my gray roots need touching up, and my jeans come all the way up to my waistline, but it’s not like I’m wearing sweats in July and riding on a Rascal. Do I look like I’m going to drop in my tracks if I get within 5 miles of a runny nose?
In the past, they only gave flu shots for particularly virulent strains that went epidemic. Now they expect you to get a shot every year during “flu season.” I never knew that flu bugs cared about what time of year it was.
The only time I’ve gotten a flu shot was when I was in college and the swine flu was making its first appearance. This was in the dark ages when flu shots were pretty much unheard of, and The University’s medical school paid me $10 to take it in the rear for humanity. Little did I know that I was paving the way for the future humiliation of my peers, at the hands of newbie nurses. For now, I think I’ll just keep counting on a 30 year-old immunity to keep me out of intensive care. I’ve done stupider things.
The CDC’s list of people who should be vaccinated:
1. Pregnant women
2. Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
3. People 50 years of age and older
4. People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
5. People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
6. People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu