Vaccinated and Sick--But I'd do it again

  1. 5
    Well,

    I went against all my initial outrage against the mandatory flu shots, and I got the seasonal live vaccine (nasal spray on Tuesday). This left me with a sore throat and runny nose, and very fatigued for 3-4 days. I understand these are within normal limits for the 10% of the population that is supposed to experience side effects. On Friday, I came back to work, and the H1N1 vaccine had just hit our floors. Only 300 doses were available and they were going fast. We had to decide on the spot, and I decided to get the shot.

    The shot didn't hurt, though I began to ache as the evening wore on. I was scheduled to work the weekend, and our managers throw a fit if anyone calls out, so I didn't even think about it. I woke up with a strong cough, and a bronchitis-like feeling of inflammation in my lungs, plus I was coughing up yellow stuff. Also there was a severe headache and body aches. That's all, but enough to make one miserable through a 12 hour shift in the ICU/CCU. I could tell that my patient care definitely suffered, as I did not have time for any of the extras. So on Sunday (today) I called out, let the chips fall where they may.

    I am still in bed as I write this; the aches are mostly gone, but I definitely have bronchitis and will need to stay in for a few days (I tend toward repeat bronchitis with any cold or infection, though I am rarely ill).

    This seems to me a very severe side effect grouping from a shot that is supposed to prevent the flu. Why then, did I get the first flu vaccines of my life, shots I have spoken out against on this forum, without fighting administration?

    The answer is what I have seen hit our floors in the past few weeks. Young people in their 30s and 40s are dying of ARDS and necrotizing, mysterious pneumonias, and all of them started with H1N1-like symptoms. These people are very sick and though they have co-morbidities, it is highly unusual to see people like them, without a history of chronic hospitalizations, become so ill, while being so young. We have lost a few already. Others are still fighting for their lives. And it's only October. The probability of being exposed to it in my line of work is very high. And we don't know if the virus will change in any way during the winter. If it did, I imagine those who got the shot would still have partial immunity, just as those in 1918 who got the spring flu never came down with the deadly winter version.

    More importantly, I don't want to be the one responsible for giving a patient this virus and then watch them deteriorate.

    So is the vaccine safe? Probably, though not exactly harmless. From those who I've talked to, it seems like the percentage of side effects is closer to 30 than 10. And my personal opinion is that those who have reactions are more likely to be those who, like me, and some of our foreign residents, have 1. never had the flu vaccine and 2. were raised on a diet and in an environment relatively free of additives and chemicals. So our reactions are stronger. Of course I have absolutely no research to back this up with.

    Thoughts? Opinions?

    -Sonia
    Laidback Al, indigo girl, HonestRN, and 2 others like this.
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  4. 14 Comments so far...

  5. 6
    It's possible that you already had the flu and the vaccinations lessened the effects.
  6. 0
    Don't think so. I'm definitely not as sick as I believe I would have been had I gotten the flu outright. No GI symptoms, no fever. Also, I had no symptoms at all until the day of my first vaccination. Still, you're right that I probably was exposed to multiple flus throughout the week. I observed all precautions with patients, though.

    Sonia
  7. 4
    I'd tend to blame the live virus vaccine more than the H1N1 shot. In any case, if you work with vulnerable populations, you'd be smart not to be around patients for the week that you're shedding virus after getting a live virus vaccine. We've been told by my university and employer to NOT get the nasal vaccines or if we do, we're out of work/clinical for 7 days (I work with transplant patients).

    I'll go for the shots instead
  8. 0
    This is entirely anecdotal, but a few years ago there was a shortage of seasonal flu vaccine so I got the Flu Mist when it became available, not being able to find the shot. My nose was definitely runny for a few days after that. I've never had any kind of side effect other than sore arm from getting the shot, so it does make me wonder if the mist style vaccine has the capacity to cause more symptoms. Who knows.

    I've had the seasonal shot this year but no H1N1 available for me so far. Not sure what I would do if offered the mist. I'd be tempted to take it but a little scared. I am a student about to start clinicals - wonder about shedding virus to patients.
  9. 4
    Quote from Sonia,RN

    ...I have seen hit our floors in the past few weeks. Young people in their 30s and 40s are dying of ARDS and necrotizing, mysterious pneumonias, and all of them started with H1N1-like symptoms. These people are very sick and though they have co-morbidities, it is highly unusual to see people like them, without a history of chronic hospitalizations, become so ill, while being so young. We have lost a few already. Others are still fighting for their lives. And it's only October. The probability of being exposed to it in my line of work is very high. And we don't know if the virus will change in any way during the winter. If it did, I imagine those who got the shot would still have partial immunity, just as those in 1918 who got the spring flu never came down with the deadly winter version.

    -Sonia
    Thank you for coming forward and sharing your experience. I really respect you for that. For though we know that no medication or vaccine is without the possibility of side effects, we all hope that it will be worth it. It's a gamble that the benefits will outweigh the risks, and usually all is fine. I believe that you made the right choice considering your history, and what you are seeing in the clinical area in which you are working. I hope for your speedy recovery.

    I have been watching reports of severe cases around the world and in our own country since April. Reading the observations of the clinicians and caretakers has left me with the impression that this flu is unestimated by many. We have been surprised by the youth of these cases. The co-morbidities of some just were not that severe, and no one would have thought that some of these people would have died. And, then there are the many reports of the very healthy people that were just plain unlucky enough to catch the flu, and died as well. It is still unnerving to read of these continuing deaths as it all seems to be so random with no explanation as to why one dies but another case is mild even in the same family. It is all so mystifying and heartbreaking as well especially when it's kids or pregnant women.
  10. 2
    My 7-year-old and I just got our H1N1 shots on Saturday. No ill effects at all.

    Could you propose a mechanism for how you might have been infected by a killed-virus vaccine?

    I'd opt for coincidence.
    Kringe38 and silvergirl like this.
  11. 2
    Quote from ♪♫ in my ♥
    My 7-year-old and I just got our H1N1 shots on Saturday. No ill effects at all.

    Could you propose a mechanism for how you might have been infected by a killed-virus vaccine?

    I'd opt for coincidence.
    The flu-mist vaccination has "attenuated" (half dead) flu virus in it, while the injected vaccine has all dead virus in it. There is the possibility that live virus can be "shed" for up to a week after it is given, which is why those who are caregivers of infant(s) under 6 months of age and health care workers (HCWs), as well as those who are immunocompromised, are to be given the injectable vaccine.

    I strongly believe that the person who reported having a sore throat with subsequent rhinitis, following the injection of seasonal flu vaccine, must have been incubating the "flu" before getting the injection. my:
    silvergirl and Laidback Al like this.
  12. 0
    Sounds like what has been going around on our floor. No fever but cough and yellow junk-and no sore throat? I got the flumist and the seasonal shot Fri. Was achy that night and low grade temp-but it was my body's immune response kicking in I believe-not the flu. My blood was applying for some immune boosters from me bones or whatnots!
    Last edit by silvergirl on Oct 27, '09 : Reason: wordy
  13. 1
    I work a floor with SEVERELY immunosuppressed patients, and so I was among the earliest vaccinated against both as vaccine became available.

    I also have major immune system issues, and generally get some fever/HA/Side effects from anything invasive (shots, scratches, moderate injuries). Thus I was surprised when I had very little effect from either one. A little bit of HA from the seasonal, and no problems at all from H1N1. There have also been no complaints at all (and there are usually at least a few) from my coworkers.

    Admittedly, I have been vaccinated against many illnesses (Dad was military, and we were stationed overseas, plus I travled to Africa). And most of my coworkers have had the flu vaccine every season.

    Despite my highly flawed immune system, I rarely get sick, probably because I and maybe a bit cognizant of the increased risks if I get anything. And as far as my patients, with the severe immunosuppression, they get screened/cultured from stem to stern for so many different antibodies/bacteria/viruses, we pretty much know when they acquire something. As well as better airflow systems/filtration, very careful handwashing, use of masks in all pt rooms, good use of isolation helps keep staff healthy and pts from getting contaminated.
    lamazeteacher likes this.


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