Pay no attention to that safer vaccine behind the curtain

So I took the kids to get their flu shots yesterday, and it sucked.

The End.

Seriously, need I say more? I mean, if you’ve ever had to take your kids to get a flu shot — or any shot, for that matter — you know the deal: shot = sucks.

The End.

But, of course, that’s not The End, is it? No, certainly not … for I must entertain and astound you, and, with any luck, make you regurgitate your beverage through your nose.

So …

When Wonder Woman informed me that she had a work commitment Wednesday evening, and that I’d have to take the children to their flu-shot appointment (smack dab in the middle of rush hour, no less), I braced for the worst.

And, god, what a great story it would make if I could tell you that both kids screamed bloody murder and had to be physically restrained in order for the nurse to administer the shots … but, the fact of the matter is, that would be untrue.

In reality, only Jayna screamed bloody murder and had to be physically restrained in order for the nurse to administer the shot … and, in her defense, she didn’t scream for all that long, and she didn’t actually need to be “physically restrained” so much as she needed to be “held firmly” while I kept her left arm exposed and shielded her eyes from the sight of the sharp, painful, monstrously large metal spike as it was driven into her flesh.

No, seriously, the needle? WAY larger than what I was expecting. I was taken aback, because I had assumed that the needle was going to be one of those short, whisper-thin jobbers like I’ve seen used for other vaccines, but apparently the flu vaccine has to be delivered via a hollowed-out railroad spike.

Wanna hear what an awesome big brother Zan is? As soon as we broke the news to the kids that they had to go with me to get their flu shots, he tried to comfort and reassure his sister by telling her that he was excited about going to get his shot. He repeated this in the car, and upon arrival at the doctor’s office, and then got his shot first so that he could show her that it was no big deal … which impressed the hell out of me, because, I’m telling you: railroad spike … and he didn’t flinch or make a peep.

So, the actual administering of the shots doesn’t make for much of a story. The kids really did great.

What does make for a good story, however, is this:

Upon checking in at the front desk, and confirming with the receptionist that, yes, we were there for the kids’ flu shots, I was given a two-sided handout titled “Inactivated Influenza Vaccine: What You Need to Know.” Well, shit, I better read that, right?

So I read it, and 90% of it was run-of-the-mill stuff I’ve heard and read before … but what I had neither heard nor read before was this paragraph:

Some inactivated influenza vaccine contains a preservative called thimerosal. Some people have suggested that thimerosal may be related to developmental problems in children. In 2004, the Institute of Medicine reviewed many studies looking into this theory and concluded that there is no evidence of such a relationship. Thimerosal-free influenza vaccine is available. [Editor’s note: emphasis mine.]

Um, OK. Let’s see if I understand: The thimerosal-infused vaccine is safe — so safe, in fact, that there’s really no need whatsoever for your children to receive the quite-possibly-even-safer thimerosal-free vaccine, and never mind the fact that our entire premise seems completely fucked, because, like, why bother making a thimerosal-free vaccine if thimerosal is perfectly safe, and why spend 47 words telling you just how perfectly safe it is, only to follow those 47 words with the offer of a thimerosal-free alternative?

“Should I be asking you to give them the thimerosal-free vaccine?” I asked the 50-something, short-haired nurse, who looked way too peppy and gleeful and insincere as she placed on the table next to Zan a tray holding two syringes chock full of thimerosal.

“Oh, no, it’s perfectly safe … and we only have a limited supply of the thimerosal-free kind; I’m not even sure if we have any left.”

“Oh, OK. It’s just that, in light of the apparent controversy —”

“A totally unfounded controversy.”

“Right, but —”

And that’s when Jayna started in with the screaming and crying, and I tried to calm her so that I could finish my thimerosal inquisition, but the nurse apparently realized that I wasn’t just going to let it go, so she said, “I’ll go check and see if we have any left,” and she seemed none too thrilled about the inconvenience I had caused her, and I so didn’t give a shit.

A moment later, she returned with two new syringes and said, “OK, you got the last two!,” and the way she said it seemed kinda snooty, as though she was in fact saying, “OK, you pain-in-the-ass, hypochondriacal parent, your kids will now get the only thimerosal-free influenza vaccines we have left, thereby denying other, more-worthy children of that privilege!,” and this is me still so not giving a shit that she apparently was annoyed that I chose to advocate for something as petty as my children’s health and welfare.

And so the shots were administered, and my thimerosal-free children and I drove home, and we didn’t even get stuck in traffic. How ’bout that.

The End.

PS: Is it just me, or does the fact that it’s mid-September and our pediatrician’s office already has used up all of its thimerosal-free vaccines, but still has thimerosal-infused vaccines aplenty, seem to indicate that I’m not the only one who thought it would be best to say “Hold the thimerosal”?

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