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?