Flu humor

Last night I woke with a surge of symptoms: body aches, chills, and an intermittent, feverish heat more intense than any hot flash. Instead of fretting whether I had COVID, the flu, or an incipient cold, I snuggled into my pillow, reassured that yesterday’s second-dose shingles shot was working.

I am a big fan of vaccines. Over the past few months, I’ve gotten a flu shot, bivalent COVID booster, and my first then second shingles shot. Although I’ve had mild side effects from each of these jabs, I prefer the predictability of side effects I’m expecting versus a spontaneous eruption of illness.

I’ve been wanting to get a shingles shot since I turned 50, but my former doctor was a shingles-shot denier. He said getting shingles was no big deal, and he insisted the vaccine against it was nothing more than a ploy for pharmaceutical companies to make money. So while my insurance company wouldn’t cover a vaccine administered at a pharmacy, my then-doctor refused to give me the jab in his office.

I have no doubt pharmaceutical companies make a pretty penny from vaccines. But everyone I know who has had shingles has said it’s no fun–certainly more than “no big deal”–and I am happy to use my insurance benefits to pay Big Pharma if it protects me from a disease I don’t want.

Vaccines are a scheduled form of sickness. Instead of being surprised when a long dormant virus suddenly causes symptoms, I’d prefer to schedule a vaccine for a time I know I can take the next day to lounge in pajamas and nurse side effects.

So I was thrilled when I went to my annual checkup with a new doctor who actively encourages patients over 50 to get the shingles shot. Shingles can be triggered by stress, and I can’t think of anything worse than having to deal with nerve pain and an itchy rash when you’re already stressed about something else.

So when I woke last night feeling mildly uncomfortable, I didn’t lose any sleep. Side-effects are proof the vaccine and my immune system are working. Better to suffer at my own convenience than to let shingles call the shots.