Flu Shots and Seat Belts

“I’ve done this so many times, I’ve memorized the lot number.”

My earlier ice-breaking comment about extensive paperwork has fallen on fertile ground. The pharmacist looks up from scribbling on my Flu Immunization Record, smiles, and continues speaking.

“This way, if they have to recall a vaccine lot, they know who to contact. Clever, eh?”

I nod and smile back. I tend to agree with people who are about to poke me with needles, but it’s more than that. In this day and age of consumer product recalls of everything from vehicles to ground beef, it sounds perfectly reasonable.

It isn’t until later that day that the penny drops. Wait a minute! How can they recall my vaccine? With the best will in the world, how could I return my flu shot for repair of whatever the vaccine equivalent is of faulty seat belts or ignition switches? How could I package up my injection and return it, like a frozen Escherichia coli-tainted lump, for proper disposal?

No, this flu shot and I are now One ““ where it goes, I go, and I’m really not ready for a recall.

Of course, if a particular lot of flu shots is found to be ineffective or dangerous, the manufacturer could contact the pharmacy to get them to sideline it. If it’s too late for that, they could contact injectees to arrange revaccination or medical follow-up, as appropriate. I guess that’s what my-new-friend-the-cheery-pharmacist meant, and why it’s good to have this information.


Close-up of flu shot record, showing lot number for "recall" purposes.

But it gets me to thinking about the concept of recalls as it applies to things other than products: advice, for one. In a way that’s a shame, because I have a blog post forming in my mind around a particularly pertinent and pithy piece of advice, crystallized from the previous week’s experience.

Never enter a Fitbit Challenge
with people who are any significant fraction of a generation
(a generation being between 20 and 25 years) younger than you.

OK, maybe not so pithy. But pretty darned pertinent.

On the spur of the moment, I had accepted a Workweek Hustle challenge from someone young enough to be my daughter, without thinking carefully about the likely age of her cohort and, therefore, my fellow competitors. And just like that I was in an online competition that could not end well.

If I met my standard daily target of 10,000 steps, then my total for the work week would come to, let me see, 5 times 10,000, carry the 7 . . . 50,000 steps! Pretty impressive, I thought.

Of course, when I missed an entire day because I worked at my computer for 10 hours, then my possible total for the work week dropped to, let me see, 4 times 10,000, carry the 6 . . . 40,000 steps! Still pretty impressive, I thought.

Or not.

The winning participant clocked about 75,000 steps. In 5 days. At the bottom of this gravity well.

So my advice seemed perfectly reasonable. More, it seemed to express a general truth of some sort, whether directed inwardly — “Don’t start things at which you’ll be pathetic” — or outwardly — “Don’t trust anyone under 60.”

But then this week dawned all frosty-fresh, seemingly full of new possibilities, and when the call came, I answered the challenge again. And you know, it’s gone better. I sure don’t expect to win, but I do expect to do more than I would have if I were treadmilling on my own, or in a competition with a bunch of sexagenarians.

If I had blogged my pithy advice, I would now be in the awkward position of trying to recall/retract it. And in the meantime — in the fateful interval between issuance and recall — who knows with whom it would have become One? Who would have picked up, and wandered off with, a tainted lump of advice handed out almost as thoughtlessly as I entered that first competition?

And so it comes down to this. Advice is more flu shot than seat belt: easy to hand out and hard to take back.

What should you do with that knowledge, you ask? Hey. Whatever seems right to you. You won’t trick me that easily.


This entry was posted in Day-to-Day Encounters, Thinking Broadly and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Flu Shots and Seat Belts

  1. The effectiveness, even relevance, of flu shots is summed here: http://www.cochrane.org/CD001269/ARI_vaccines-to-prevent-influenza-in-healthy-adults
    Other independent analysts have been questioning the usefulness of flu shots for years. http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2011/10/strict-meta-analysis-raises-questions-about-flu-vaccine-efficacy
    I have heard that the nasal sprays being used for children shed the live virus to all and sundry for days. The broader picture of virus introductions to the human body is explored here: http://www.nvic.org/CMSTemplates/NVIC/pdf/Live-Virus-Vaccines-and-Vaccine-Shedding.pdf
    In an age where our minds are being scrutinized for profit, should we be cautious about turning our bodies over to mass experiments with chemicals? The only ones guaranteed to profit are the pharmaceutical companies.
    I don’t know how many steps make a marathon, but a researcher in the study of the effects of extreme exercise on the heart is handing out wise advice here: http://www.medhelp.org/user_journals/show/1539611/Marathon-Running-Done-Over-Many-Years-Bad-For-Heart
    He suggests doing any exercise at maximum exertion for longer than an hour is damaging. There is a peculiar irony in discovering that my rather sedentary lifestyle has rendered me as unfit as those paragons of virtue who have been running marathons for years. I may yet win over a marathoner!

  2. Tom Watson says:

    My advise is…oh, drat, I think the flu shot that I got the other day just kicked in and I forget what I was going to provide advice about. I’m heading back to the pharmacy tomorrow for a warranty fix.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – Clearly a sub-standard lot. Make a note. I think you might have the makings of a class action. Not that I’m, you know, advising you.

  3. Tom Watson says:

    See what shape I’m in? Can’t even always spell “advice” properly!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom: The vaccine damaged your built-in spelling checker? That’s outrageous. I foresee a big out-of-court settlement.

  4. John Whitman says:

    Anyone who spends 10 consecutive hours at a computer needs more than a FitBit to maintain their fitness, they need something to maintain their sanity!
    John W

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