Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Flu shot rant

It's the beginning of October in the northern United States. Usually this means that the leaves are changing colors symbolizing the fall season. The weather is starting to get cooler. Halloween is at the end of the month which means that the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are not far behind.

It also means that the annual flu shot fiasco is going to start soon. You've seen this before. Once flu shots are mentioned on the morning national newscasts, the office phones will ring constantly until December. These annual news stories usually have someone from the CDC asking how bad the flu season is predicted to be. Then, typically, questions about the rumored flu shot shortages that will take place.

Meanwhile, back to our office, our patients are demanding that their flu shots be given to them today. "Hey, all the local pharmacies have them. Why doesn't your office have them yet?" "Is your office going to forget to call me again this year?" "Is your office going to run out of flu shots again this year?" "Don't you care about all your patients and not those you classify as 'high risk?'"

Why does this have to happen every year? Why do people have to get so angry at our office and our staff? I have no control why the pharmacies get the flu vaccine before doctor's offices and nursing homes. No, it's not a conspiracy. I would sure like to find out why this happens.

Why does our office wait two and three weeks after the pharmacies have their flu shot clinics? Well, for business, it's good to be the first on the block to get your flu shots out there so that you can use up your supply and not have any extra inventory. From a medical standpoint, we wait just in case the flu season may last another two or three weeks longer than expected next spring. That way you're still covered.

Why do people insist that the flu shot causes the flu? It doesn't. The flu shot doesn't prevent the common cold, and that's what you probably have. Estimates are that between 10-20% of the US population are infected with the influenza virus each year -- About 100,000 need hospitalization and about 35,000 die each year from influenza. But, don't worry, that won't be you. And, no, I won't just give you a prescription for tamiflu, just in case - just get your flu shot.

I'm just getting ready for the annual anger and aggression that will take place over the next few weeks when I'm not able to give their flu shot -- on demand -- for one reason or another. Don't worry, I still think you're a good person, but one of my many patients caught up in the annual hype.

Oh by the way, in case I miss you this time, you can still get a flu shot in December and January. Flu season goes through spring. Better safe than sorry, right?

23 comments:

healthpsych said...

Now you're sounding like Dr. Flea ;)

The same thing happens here. The media whip the population up into a panic every single year about a flu epidemic is going to be. It just creates a lot of unnecessary stress for everyone.

Hope things improve!

Moof said...

I've never had a flu shot in my life ... although I used to get a call each year because of being a "risk." I also never get the flu.

I just know that if I were to break my paradigm ...

Good luck with the angry hordes! Give mine to one of them ... ;o)

BarBarA said...

I don't understand why some people are so darn grouchy that they would complain to your office about these things...but that's how some people are.

At my last job I was in charge of arranging a "flu shot clinic" every year and it was always a big hit. But I haven't personally had one in a few years and thankfully (knock on wood) have not been sick.

I hope you are able to stay healthy and well all flu season so you can take care of your patients :)

Biomed Tim said...

For the non-doctors,

Remember that "herd immunity" doesn't actually kick in until about 90% of the population is immunized...so let's not develop a false sense when it comes to flus.

With the emerging threat of bioterrorism, it's a good idea for us to start getting in the habit of getting flu shots, despite the inconveniences.

Geez, I sound like a bio-preacher. I should chill out.

Susan Miller said...

Honestly, really, no lie...I've only had the flu once in my life (definitely the flu) and it was during the only year that I had taken a flu shot. No bull, I promise. Thus, no flu shot for me. As I was growing up my Dad thought Listerine was the "cure all". It was before they had all the great flavors of today so I think that I willed myself healthy in order to not take the Listerine. Today I like the cool mint flavor and consider it my flu shot. Maybe you should offer your patients little bottles of Listerine ;)

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

okay but when CAN i get my flu shot??? when SHOULD i start calling your office???

and how many are coming to my house saturday for the ba meeting??

you could give us all our shots there!! yeah that's it. bring them with you.... then you won't have to bring a snack (smile). online shots wouldn't even hurt, would they??

you could tell your staff to tell the patients that call that you are giving online shots this year, that they work just as well, and then email them a bill!!! (hey i may be on to something here???)

bee

joan said...

In UK we have a delay in flu vacs, said in papers could be Nov/Dec before people can have them!

The Curmudgeon said...

You're certainly right that laypeople lump a whole host of maladies under the title of "flu."

I certainly do.

But don't you know, we want a shot that gets rid of all the creeping crud that lays us low in the Winter, whether it's technically influenza or not!

Anonymous said...

this has been going on for so many years now --- WHY aren't they making more of the vaccine?
and why are most of the vaccine companies overseas? wouldn't it make more sense if we have all these demanding old farts screaming for their flu shots, that we have a good ole USA company make some, so they don't have to ship the vials from Izbekhivlasticartz?
Of course, Made In The USA vaccine would cost four times more than imported vaccines, but that's another rant...
cheers ~mo

cathy said...

I usually get mine in Dec. I don't know why, thats just the time I go to the Doc for a check up and they come in with my flu shot.

I remember my parents use to say the "flu shot" gave them the flu...They always refused to get it, until one day their family doc told them "there was a new typeof flu shot and it didn't give you the flu like the old ones did."...:) They both got them every year after that!

NeoNurseChic said...

I won't be at your door asking for the flu shot. Don't get mad at me when I get upset because I got the flu again and didn't get the flu shot. I just refuse to get it. And when I have more time, I'll go into my rant on why I will not get the flu shot. So for now, I'm one less person who will get angry at you (or any doctor) regarding this topic! ;)

Dream Mom said...

Hey, I think you were talking about me! LOL!

I called the pediatrician's office the other day to see if I could get a handicapped license form signed for Dear Son (our expires in November and I can't be without it)and they told me to make an appt. Since Dear Son is so heavy and is getting hard to lift in his wheelchair, I set up an appointment for Columbus Day (he's off school) to get the form signed and to get our flu shots (he did have MRSA pneumonia earlier this year so I think we are the "target" market for this shot). The response was that they "weren't sure" when they were getting in the flu shots. The administrator said it would be the first few days in October but I should "call ahead" to confirm.

I said that we go through this "every year" and that they ought to know when they would get them in to assist with appointment scheduling. Some years, I have had to call for several weeks.

I don't want to have to make two appointments-one for the flu shot, one to get the form signed. I try to consolidate his appointments and get them done on his days off school.

So yes, I get irritated when they don't have a clue when they'll come in. My time is important too and I need a date. Maybe the answer is to come up with a better system. Why not have a flu e-mail list and send out an e-mail to all patients once the flu shot has arrived? This would eliminate patients having to call the office.

We get ours every year. I missed one year and was sick as a dog and will never do it again. Dear Son never misses his, that would be just plain irresponsible.

So, I'll just quietly duck out of here about now......

scalpel said...

It's interesting to me how there is such a national hysteria over things like the recent spinach contamination (which killed two people total, I believe) and West Nile virus (which kills 100-200 per year)and avian flu (zero US deaths), yet refuse to take such a simple precaution as getting the flu shot.

Missing a week or more of work because of a fixed false belief and lack of perspective is hard to justify. Spreading preventable illness to your fellow citizens is even more inexcusable.

Biomed Tim said...

Scalpel,

I concur. I would comment that this is not a failure in the lack of education in science, but more specifically a lack of education in "logic."

Many people are positively convinced that they've gotten flus as a result of flu shots. I've already spent too much time and effort into trying to convince them otherwise.

I give up

Lea said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lea said...

I deleted my first comment because after I posted it, I thought it may come off a bit disrespectful. It was meant to be funny, but not everyone has my sense of humor. So, Dr. A if I offended you, I apologize.

type1emt said...

well, as my doc's office is sure "to be out", I'm not going to even attempt getting one there.
Its not nice to harass those poor
receptionists, and all those old
people should have first dibs.
I'll take my chances with the masses, there's always a flu shot "event" going on somewhere.. or my specialist may have extras.
Me+the flu=the hospital,so I always get a flu shot.

Mary said...

I've linked...again. Great timely post!

Biomed Tim said...

Read this if you want to know Why we run out of flu shots

Enoch Choi said...

I posted on the same issue, saying people shouldn't worry so much, there's no shortage this year, and we'll just be getting our vaccine later (or so says NPR covering the CDC's releases):
Doctors Report Feast and Famine For Flu Vaccine

Anonymous said...

It's such a darn shame that so many people have been brain-washed into believing that herd-immunity is real...and those who don't vaccinate or get flu shots bear responsibility. It's silly and not at all logical if you've done the reasearch. Believe me, any doctor who spouts this has not done the research himself, only parroted back what the drug companies say and what CDC says. Doesn't anyone do their own research anymore? Oh well!

Beverly Prichard said...

I could not agree more, I always hear about this and my kids get scared that they are going to get sick. There are a lot of other people like this, I have met them on www.medsocial.com and it is funny to hear about it.

Anonymous said...

I may be too late on this subject ...my "pondering" is... what does the flu vaccine REALLY do for you anyway? They don't always hit on the "right" vaccine any given year. I used to work in a nursing home. Every year all the residents got their shot and every year we "cleaned house" as they all died from the flu.