05 / 12 / 2014 9am
The different reactions to the flu jab by Ruth Warden
Before I got involved in the flu fighter campaign, I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as a flu jab and I certainly didn’t know how serious flu can be. I’m lucky not to be in one of the at-risk groups so I’ve never been called by my GP for a flu jab. But when we were offered the jab in my workplace as part of the flu fighter campaign, I took the opportunity – why wouldn’t I?
So, each year, I look after myself and my family by having the flu jab. It’s offered at work, it’s quick, easy and I get a cup of tea. What I find fascinating is the variety of reactions the flu jab gets.
My eldest son has asthma and he gets the flu jab each year. My husband supports this and has even taken him to the GP practice to make sure he gets the jab. But, when my husband found himself in one of the at-risk groups and was invited for a flu jab, would he go? Suddenly he started to say things like: “I won’t catch flu”, “I don’t need a flu jab, “I’m not sure it is safe”, “flu can’t kill you”. I was amazed!
Here was a sensible person having a completely illogical reaction. I pointed out that he was prepared to let his son have the jab, so how could it not be safe? “Oh, it’s ok for him, but not for me,” was his response. No matter how much I tried to find the holes in his argument, he just wouldn’t budge - in fact the responses got even more bizarre. After a great deal of persuasion (he would probably say nagging) and a final cry from me of ‘how can I work on the flu programme if you don’t have your jab?’ he finally gave in and went to the GP and had the jab.
Well that was last year. Is this year any different? No - here we go again, all the same arguments and reasons as to why he isn’t going to have the flu jab. He hasn’t had the jab yet, but we are working on it!
Contrast that with my younger son’s reaction, he is part of the pilot for childhood flu. A few weeks ago, he came home from school, bursting with news: “Mum, mum, I’m part of the thing you do at work.” He thrust the leaflet for parents about the childhood flu scheme in front of me. He couldn’t wait to tell me that he was going to have the vaccine at school, he didn’t know when because if they told them the girls would be upset and start to cry (hmmm, not too sure about that one!).
He had the nasal spray this week and was very pleased about it and keen to let me know, although he did say that he might have got “a little bit of flu” from the vaccine because he had a sore throat. I explained that he couldn’t catch flu from the vaccine and that maybe the sore throat was down to shouting with his friends!
So what do I learn from this? We need to make the flu jab the norm, if we get young children having it they will grow up seeing it as just one of the things you do to look after yourself alongside things like exercise and eating healthily.
Don’t give space for people to find excuses. The flu vaccine was brought to my younger son and I could get the jab at work a few feet from my desk, so neither of us had to make an effort. My husband has to go to the GP surgery to get his jab – it requires effort and time and allows him the space to find excuses. I’ve also learnt that logic seems to go out of the window, so when all else fails, try nagging!
Ruth Warden is assistant director for employment services at NHS Employers.