…it’ll be because the flu vaccine poisoned me, of course!

That’s right. Today I got my flu shot, complete with thimerosal and formaldehyde! I do put my money where my mouth is, so to speak. No word on whether there was any of the dreaded Polysorbate 80 in the vaccine, though. Oh, well. Maybe next time.

Also, while we’re at it, my latest post over at The ScienceBlogs Book Club is up and ready for your perusal. Read it, enjoy it, trash it if you like. Just don’t ignore it.

You know how much I hate it when my posts are ignored.


  1. #1 Trin Tragula
    October 7, 2008

    My first guess would have been the rapture.

  2. #2 CyberLizard
    October 7, 2008

    Duly ignored 😉 Since I already replied to your Book Club post, I figured I had a free pass for some sarcasm.

  3. #3 J-Dog
    October 7, 2008

    I was guessing a visit from ID Idiot DaveScot Springer.

    He wanted a script for DCA and you weren’t about to give it to him… or were you?

  4. #4 Rod Clark
    October 7, 2008

    Your autistic symptoms should start arriving this evening. By tomorrow… you’ll only be able to communicate via keyboard. Blogging will become your primary mode of communication and you’ll….

    Hey wait a minute, this isn’t your first flu shot…

  5. #5 marilove
    October 7, 2008

    two years ago, i got my first (and thus far, last) flu shot. the next day, i had tonsillitis. i’ve never had it before, nor since. so very weird. it was very mild. even the doctor was surprised i was in no real pain (mostly just swelling and gross white spots and lots of red). I’m still not sure it was a coincidence or not…

  6. #6 Dianne
    October 7, 2008

    I’m planning on my flu shot on Thursday. I’ve gotten flu shots regularly for years. Missed it the year before last. Got flu and two courses of post-influenza bacterial bronchitis. Ugh. Never again!

  7. #7 Dawn
    October 7, 2008

    I’m trying to figure out whether or not to get it this year. True to being an abnormal medical person 😉 I am one of the few who reacts to the injection with fever, chills and muscle aches 1-2 days later. Not a real problem, except that this year my employer is giving it on Wednesday. Soooooo…do I get the shot and risk missing 2 days of work, get the shot and work from home in case I feel lousy, or not get the shot? Decisions, decisions. However, autism, mercury poisoning, etc are not part of the decision making process.

  8. #8 Danio
    October 7, 2008

    All it took to get me to line up every October for the flu vaccine was a real case of the flu, just once. Any treatment that can reduce the odds of me feeling that wretched, for that long, is a ‘must have’, in my book. Dawn, I don’t have a reaction to the shot, so I can’t speak from experience, but even a ‘flu lite’ reaction such as you describe, as compared to full-blown influenza, seems like a no-brainer to me. Take some ibuprofen and work from home.

  9. #9 Lab Lemming
    October 7, 2008

    Is there a one stop vaccine information site on the web? I tried googling “vaccine facts” and all I got was Woo and a bunch of pages for individual shots.

  10. #10 Cath the Canberra Cook
    October 7, 2008

    I had my flu shot this year, and I didn’t get flu! Instead I got a viral encephalitis and a Haemophilus influenzae bacterial chest infection. Joy! Am now superstitiously thinking of NOT having a flu shot next year 🙂

  11. #11 Mu
    October 7, 2008

    My clearly convincing case story: The one year I go a flu shot I was out 4 days with the flue. Naturally, I won’t get one again.
    Does anyone have any data on how accurate the yearly “March guess” of which strains will be prevalent in the Fall and Winter is?

  12. #12 mandydax
    October 7, 2008

    Ooh, did it have aluminum in it, too? I love aluminum. I used to chew bits of soda cans. Mmm. Anyway, I work at a hospital and the flu shots are given out free and mandatorially each year to us. If we refuse, we have to either have a medical excuse (allergy, etc.) or sign a statement that says we understand that we’re putting patients, coworkers, friends, and family at risk by not getting it. I’m not big on guilt trips, but it’s damn good framing. ~_^

  13. #13 Johnny
    October 7, 2008

    Yah, put me down in the ‘missed it one year, never gonna miss it again’ column. Got mine this past Saturday.

    Sitting on the couch with the chills, with two sweaters and a jacket, and a blanket over my legs, in an 80 degree house, I realized I’d be just as miserable without the jacket and one of the sweaters. Didn’t need the remaining sweater either, but the slightest breeze felt like an arctic blast.

    I swear I felt the fever break… almost (but not quite) as good as an orgasm.

    For those who would like someone other than an some stranger on a message board encouraging them to get the shot, may I submit –


  14. #14 johnny
    October 7, 2008

    Ohh – I accidently double clicked the post button, but a *triple* post –

    My apologies to the group.

  15. #15 Prometheus
    October 7, 2008


    The CDC’s influenza webpages have detailed information about how accurately they have predicted the influenza vaccines for the past several years. Last year, they got fooled when a strain that was causing a small minority of cases in the Southern Hemisphere rapidly moved up through the rankings in the Northern Hemisphere.

    It’s a bit like betting on the horse races – you pick your “horses” based on how they’ve been performing in the Southern Hemisphere and hope that they continue to perform the same when they move to the Northern Hemisphere.

    Most of the time, it works well – this past year, I got nailed by the “ringer” influenza strain. I was so miserable that I resolved to be sure to get my vaccination every year – I can’t afford to be out for so long in the middle of the school year.


  16. #16 dean
    October 7, 2008

    “two years ago, i got my first (and thus far, last) flu shot. the next day, i had tonsillitis. i’ve never had it before, nor since. so very weird.

    last year I got my flu shot, and the next day I had a knot in my shoelaces for the first time in 30 years. coincidence – i’m not sure. just sayin’.

  17. #17 Rowan
    October 7, 2008

    i wish i could have flu shot. fortunately i have only been sick with the flu once in the last five years. however, i am in the contraindications column for “do not administer if a person has X”. i talked to a pharmacist today at a pharmacy that has the flu shot available. he wouldn’t give it to me.

    hence i get to be over vigilant with what i do or do not touch with my hands for the next six months. i also get to invest in a lot of hand lotion due to washing of the hands continually as a precaution.

  18. #18 llewelly
    October 7, 2008

    But you’re a skeptic, and an atheist. All skeptics have ‘social autism’ anyway, so how would we know the thimersol and the formaldehyde had any effect? Furthermore – as a fully paid agent of Big Pharma, it would be amazing if one of their black helicopters failed to deliver the secret antidotes to both thimersol and formaldehyde to you on some dark and stormy night in the recent past. And besides, even if the delivery of the antidotes failed, and somehow you were identifiably affected, surely Big Pharma would bribe the HAARP people to take control of the minds of all who viewed your site and erase any revealing knowledge therein. QED.

  19. #19 Nana
    October 7, 2008

    My last bout with the flu over a decade ago, I lay on the couch with 103 deg fever watcing Paint Your Wagon and listening to Clint Eastwood sing.
    My first flu shot made me sick for 3 weeks. Not a real “sick” feeling but one of overall “malaise”. Now I get the shot every year because I’m around little kiddies at a school and I’m taking care of my aging mother.

    Out PTA will be hosting a flu clinic at the school next week and of course I’ll be getting mine.

  20. #20 magista
    October 7, 2008

    I’m all lined up for mine on October 17th. Work (high school) is covering it for me.

    I still had something vaguely resembling flu for about a day and a half last year, but whatever my un-immunized husband had a couple of days after was much worse.

    Anecdotal? Sure. But I’m not going to consider doing without. One year they missed the mark on the prediction and I got the real thing.

    Misery is not being able to look at a book, or tv, or the computer monitor because of the headaches. Worst three days of my life. Followed by the second-worst days as I then had to try and bring my class back up to speed from a substitute teacher. Sure, they’re professionals – but seldom do you get someone who can teach physics.

  21. #21 The Perky Skeptic
    October 7, 2008

    I’m a needle-chicken! But it’s been FOREVER since I’ve had the flu. But this is the first flu-season my child will be in school!!! Should we all get shots this year?

  22. #22 DLC
    October 8, 2008

    Obviously, as a Pharma-Shill, you were given the Green Vaccine, which is of course safe. [/joke]

  23. #23 Woobegone
    October 8, 2008

    *sniff* It was nice knowing you. Clearly you’re not long for this world…

  24. #24 Dawn
    October 8, 2008

    Danio – your suggestions were just about what I decided last night. So, today I’m signing up. Now I just hope I can get in..the spaces fill up pretty quickly here.

    Update: OK. Signed up and glad I did it now; there were only a few slots left open. Orac..if my employer goes belly-up after the 29th, you’ll know I joined you in mercury poisoning! LOL.

  25. #25 Ranson
    October 8, 2008

    Point of fact, llewelly. I don’t think our host has ever actually identified his religious leanings, despite the squid-like company he keeps here at Scienceblogs.

    Anyway, the helicopters are silver now. The black ones are just to let the rubes think they’re smart when they spot it.

  26. #26 TheProbe
    October 8, 2008

    the last time I did not get mine, I wound up with a nasty case of the flu, bronchitis, recurrence of malaria, and six weeks of being sicker than a dog. Recovery took three months after that.

    I get mine Wednesday.

  27. #27 alyric
    October 8, 2008

    I’m sending my mini herd out to get the flu shot because I can’t have one.

  28. #28 hipparchia
    October 8, 2008

    I have to do some research on that flu shot. Doc said no flu shots for pregnant ladies.

    However, it does not compute. If I get exposed to the flu, I will get the disease AND my body will have to produce the antibodies. If I get the shot, I get to produce antibodies and not get the flu. Time for second opinion.

    When I announced the happy news, I asked my family members to get a shot this year to decrease the chance of infecting me. My woo-woo sister-in-law flatly refused, saying she did not want “dealing with any unnatural substances” in her vegan, crystal-healed, reiki-conditioned, yoga-balanced bod. Grrr! Do flu shots come in blow-darts?

    So what do you think- should I consult another doctor?

  29. #29 Liesele
    October 8, 2008

    Hipparchia, yes I think you might want to check with CDC guidelines and/or another OB. All the OBs I’ve had experience with (and I have 6 kids) have recommended and in fact offered in-office flu shots as part of routine OB care. The one caveat may be that some may recommend waiting until after the first trimester (I’m not sure why medically, maybe Orac or another MD can enlighten us) to receive the shot. My OB office has the front desk staff trained to ask each OB patient at every visit from October through the winter whether she wants a flu shot at that visit.

  30. #30 Keenacat
    October 8, 2008

    Anyway, I would recommend to skip your sister-in-laws company for a long time. Just for your personal safety, of course.

    And get a second opinion… Flu shots are mostly considered safe and effective for pregnant women, the german “Berufsverband der Frauenärzte” (union of gynecologists)and the “Gesellschaft für Gynäkologie und Geburtshilfe” (society for gynecology and obstetrics) strongly recommend the flu shot for the second and third trimester and for the lactation period. It spares you the possibility of severe complications and provides your baby with some antibodies as well.

  31. Humm. Ok I’ll be the one to admit being an asshole.

    I have never gotten a flu shot mainly because I don’t think about it and that I almost never get the “flu”.

    I know, not a good excuse.

  32. #32 Natalie
    October 8, 2008

    Perky Skeptic, what about FluMist? It’s a spray they put in your nose. I guess it tastes like crap, but if your needle phobic it might be worth looking into.

  33. #33 The Perky Skeptic
    October 8, 2008

    Ooooh, thanks Natalie! 🙂 I’ll ask my doc about FluMist!

  34. #34 Tom
    October 8, 2008

    I was able to find FluMist a few years ago (actually during the shortage year). It has a sort of sweet, vaguely unpleasant taste that lasted less than a minute. Now Astelin nasal spray tastes horrid, and it hangs around a lot longer.

    I didn’t have any side effects from FluMist. If I can find it, I’ll take it as long as I’m in the age range (not too much longer). And being a live vaccine, it offers more protection if the circulating strains diverge from the vaccine strains than the injected vaccine.

  35. #35 jayh
    October 8, 2008

    I had a shot this year, just because I happened to be at the doctor’s for a checkup (beating the Oct benefits changeover), so I said what the hell.

    However I’ve rarely done flu shots, and I never really got the ‘flu du jour’ so it’s never made a difference (though about 12 years ago I got a really nasty summer virus which was as ugly as the flu but something else, and wouldn’t have been helped by the shot.

  36. #36 Interrobang
    October 8, 2008

    I’m not going to get the shot again this year; frankly, despite having pneumonia one year, I’d rather have the flu. I hate going into shock from the shot, I hate having a useless arm because of the bruising that lasts for a week and a half, and I hate catching whatever kind of crud someone’s disgustingly ill sproglodytes bring to the doctor’s office; I’ll take the risk of someone out there randomly infecting me. (Amazingly, I find I stay healthier the less I’m in the doctor’s office during cold and flu season. Didn’t help that when I had to go in to get my foot looked at, my damn doctor had a cold. Thanks, doc.)

  37. #37 Monado in Torontom
    October 8, 2008

    If you’ve never had a pneumonia inoculation, consider getting one now – or next year with your flu shot. A recent study of 5,000 people showed that the Pneu Shot cuts the risk of heart attack by more than half. And you take it once, not every year: CTV article with summary of paper.

    Pneumococcal vaccination and risk of myocardial infarction

    –François Lamontagne MD MSc, Marie-Pierre Garant PhD, Jean-Christophe Carvalho MD, Luc Lanthier MD MSc, Marek Smieja MD PhD, Danielle Pilon MD MSc

    Background: Based on promising results from laboratory studies, we hypothesized that pneumococcal vaccination would protect patients from myocardial infarction.

    Methods: We conducted a hospital-based case-control study that included patients considered to be at risk of myocardial infarction. We used health databases to obtain hospital diagnoses and vaccination status. We compared patients who had been admitted for treatment of myocardial infarction with patients admitted to a surgical department in the same hospital for a reason other than myocardial infarction between 1997 and 2003.

    Results: We found a total of 43 209 patients who were at risk; of these, we matched 999 cases and 3996 controls according to age, sex and year of hospital admission. Cases were less likely than controls to have been vaccinated (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 0.53, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.40-0.70). This putative protective role of the vaccine was not observed for patients who had received the vaccine up to 1 year before myocardial infarction (adjusted OR 0.85, 95% CI 0.54-1.33). In contrast, if vaccination had occurred 2 years or more before the hospital admission, the association was stronger (adjusted OR 0.33, 95% CI 0.20-0.46).

    Interpretation: Pneumococcal vaccination was associated with a decrease of more than 50% in the rate myocardial infarction 2 years after exposure. If confirmed, this association should generate interest in exploring the putative mechanisms and may offer another reason to promote pneumococcal vaccination.

  38. #38 daedalus2u
    October 8, 2008

    I was at a talk the other day by Paul H. Patterson


    If you click on his name you can download some of his papers. He is working on neurodevelopmental effects of viral infections in utero. Mostly that involves schizophrenia and some work on autism.

    (I am working from memory here, so this is just the gist) He mentioned that he was at a conference of flu epidemiologists/experts and asked them if one of their loved ones was pregnant would they recommend a flu shot, and to a person they all said yes because getting the flu when you were pregnant was so bad.

    He presented a slide where there was a pretty reasonable analysis of flu during pregnancy and schizophrenia in a pretty large cohort (a whole country I think), and the analysis said that if flu during pregnancy were eliminated, so would ~20% of schizophrenia.

    His work was showing that it was particular cytokines and that some of these effects could be induced just by injecting non-infectious DNA that stimulated the immune system.

    The timing is pretty critical in terms of having specific neurodevelopmental effects. The extremely critical time is right around 22 days when the neural tube is closing.

    Vaccines won’t hurt Orac. He already has anti-freeze in his coolant.

  39. #39 Enkidu
    October 8, 2008

    I’m getting my flu shot next week, and my 8 month old (5 months adjusted… she is a preemie) daughter is getting hers on Saturday. How dare I try to protect my tiny daughter’s fragile lungs with a “toxic” vaccine!

  40. #40 hipparchia
    October 9, 2008

    Thanks for the replies. The system did not eat my post.

    I am aware that even the WHO also recommends the vaccine. However, conflicting advice is even more unpleasant than morning sickness. Makes me doubt my rational choices.

    I will talk to my GP tomorrow.

    I walked around several pharmacies these days and the pharmacists gave me a horrified look when I asked them if a flu shot is OK in pregnancy.

    I live in Bulgaria and there is lots of superstition surrounding vaccines.

    My SIL fortunately lives 120 km. away from me and this year she is definitely NOT staying with me in order to visit the Christmas Crystal and Gem Sale (yes, we have that in my city). No vaccine- no party.

    I think the first trimester rule is set in order to not (probably wrongly) relate early miscarriage to the use of a vaccine, thus spreading the panic.

  41. #41 Monado in Torontom
    October 9, 2008

    I expect I’ll get a shot at LotStreetWiz’s office, where I’m an affiliate (they can call me if they want a contract technical writer). The Ontario government started offering it for kids and over-65’s, then rapidly approved it as free for everyone because it saved so much money by reducing absences from work.

    Even if you don’t get flu, guys, you should consider getting it. Some studies (sorry, no reference at the moment) associate it with a 40% reduction in incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

  42. #42 DebraGrace
    October 11, 2008

    I am really super glad you got the one with Thimerisol, even though there is a version with reduced amounts or none at all. It WOULD be truly hypocritical for such a staunch defender of ethyl mercury not to take a little bit now and then . . . Also it is great that you allowed more to be available for children under 2 . . . However, I doubt you will suffer any ill effects, as your blood brain barrier will protect you. You should excrete it in 7 days, and as your brain is no longer developing (actually it is decaying right?), it shouldn’t affect your development at all. Anyway, congratulations on being exposed to ethyl mercury, it is truly an accomplishment! You should have a tuna fish sandwhich just to celebrate!

  43. #43 Rogue Epidemiologist
    October 12, 2008

    Debra, dah-ling, you make it sound like a bad thing. really, woman. You’re histrionic.

    I’ll be stepping up for my flu shot this week. As soon as I find 15 minutes to stop by the clinic in between case follow-ups.

    And I think I’ll enjoy an ice-cold can of Diet Coke while I’m at it.

    Remember folks: diabetes and influenza,/b> will kill far more folks this year than the much-feared-but-entirely-unsubstantiated risks of artificial sweeteners and thimerosal.

  44. #44 DebraGrace
    October 12, 2008

    How many people will tap water kill? Really you act like there is no other choice for you than an expensive carbonated beverage from a lined aluminum can. Send a little note to thank those miners when you are through. 😉

  45. #45 khan
    October 12, 2008

    Got my flu shot Friday at the local grocery store. $28

  46. #46 Ms. Clark
    October 13, 2008

    I got my flu shot 3 days ago. My adult autistic kid and I got our shots at the same time. As far as I can tell we are not more autistic than usual.

    There’s a new study out that says that infants of mothers who get the flu shot are protected from the flu. Newborns can’t get the flu shot so if their moms are vaccinated, their infants can get some protection up to 6 months of age.

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