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Just Shoot Me

No, I don't have a death wish. I've just been trying to get the flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Lung Association, and every other major medical organization (and my obgyn) recommend that women who are pregnant during flu season get vaccinated against the virus. This is because pregnant women (like people with chronic conditions such as asthma or diabetes) are at greater risk for complications from the flu. In other words, it's supposed to be bad for the baby if you end up in the hospital with a raging flu-induced fever or pneumonia or something horrible to that effect. So, once again, I followed all the experts' advice and sought to go get my flu shot.

And once again, it wasn't so simple. The reason for this may be because I want a flu vaccine that doesn't contain mercury because mercury is thought to be harmful to the fetus. Many flu vaccines do contain mercury, but fortunately, there are some flu vaccines that don't—and I assumed I would be able to get one of those. I mean, if I'm not eating tuna steak for fear of its mercury content, I'm certainly not going to inject myself with a dose of mercury right now.

So I faxed my internist and asked for a flu vaccine that contained no mercury—and just so that there was no confusion, I wrote out which vaccines don't contain mercury. According to Dr. Bob Sears (a pediatrician we work with a lot at Parenting) and his latest book, The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child — which we excerpted in our October 2007 issue — Fluzone from a ten-dose vial DOES contain mercury, so I don't want that. But a single dose of Fluzone DOES NOT contain mercury. And two other flu vaccines, Fluarix and Fluvirin, contain minuscule amounts of mercury, so I could get any of those three types of flu vaccine.

My doctor's office called back to tell me I needed to talk to my obgyn instead. And since I knew my obgyn didn't give flu shots, I went to a flu clinic near my office to ask them what kind of vaccine they give. The nurse there wouldn't touch me and my pregnant belly with a 10-foot pole either, and she, too, told me instead that I needed to talk with my obgyn.

I thought getting the flu shot was the safe thing to do — and it should be easy. When I was looking online, I even found a clinic in California (the Mecca of environmentally sound health) that offers mercury-free flu shots for all pregnant women free of charge. I seriously started to think it might be easiest to fly to California to get my shot than to battle it out with the docs here.

But then I started to wonder, if the docs are so nervous to give me the shot while I'm pregnant, should I be getting the shot? Desperate for info, I e-mailed Dr. Bob Sears and he said that the flu shot can be a dilemma because of the mercury in some of the vaccines, and that it often ends up being an individual choice whether to get the shot or not. I'm seriously at a loss as to what to do.

On another vaccine note: I reminded my husband to call his doctor to get the whooping cough vaccine (called Tdap). After all I went through to get that vaccine (to read about the Tdap vaccine and what I did to get it, see this post on my fertility blog) in order to make sure I don't pass whooping cough on to our newborn when he/she arrives, I wanted to make sure my husband was vaccinated too. And sure enough, his doctor's office, without a word of explanation, said they wouldn't order him a prescription for Tdap. Why wouldn't they do something so simple to safeguard his baby? That would be too easy. So now I'm gearing up for another fight with the brick wall that is the medical establishment to get my husband the shot he needs. Sometimes I seriously feel like giving up. You know I won't — this is my baby we're talking about—but I'm giving it a rest for today. To be continued...