Like it or not, summer is ending, and flu season is beginning. Based on the CDC’s recommendation, my little girl will probably be getting her flu shot at her 6 month check up in October. An immunologist by training, I definitely understand and appreciate the importance of vaccines. But it’s still not something I’m just going to blindly obey.
Let’s start by getting a few facts straight: I am very, very pro-vaccine. Vaccines are lifesavers, pure and simple. Without getting into anything negative, let me just say this: sometimes, as a culture, we don’t seem to appreciate how lucky we are that things like measles, polio, and diphtheria aren’t problems we need to concern ourselves with.
Rosalyn will absolutely be getting a flu shot. She’ll be six months old when she gets it, and hasn’t had a chance yet to develop a strong immune system. The shot will protect her from flu, and all the possible complications that can happen in someone with an immature immune system. But there are just so many immunizations! For every one of them, I ask, “What do I think about giving this to my child?”
How do they even work, anyway? An immunization introduces a foreign particle, called an antigen, into your immune system. B cells, which produce antibody, and T cells, which help B cells work better and/or directly kill infected cells, recognize this antigen, and multiply to destroy it. Most of these T and B cells will die, but a few, called memory cells, will live. Because these memory cells have been previously activated, they are able to respond very quickly the next time they see their antigen. The memory cells can multiply and fight the infection much more rapidly than a naïve cell.
Like pretty much all parents, I hate watching my baby in pain. She doesn’t like getting shots. And she has perfected the pathetic, “How could you?” look when something she doesn’t like happens. I just tell myself it’s for the best. She may not remember the shots for long, but I think we’ll both be happy that she doesn’t get tetanus or meningitis. Of course the best case scenario would be that like smallpox, childhood ailments like Polio are eradicated and blogs like this are a thing of the past.