by Anura Guruge
Deanna, Devanee and I got our 2012 – 2013 ‘flu shot’, influenza vaccination, at the Hannaford, Alton pharmacy. It, in all aspects, was ‘painless’ — though Devanee, as ever, complained (but did not scream as she is sometimes wont to do when getting a shot or having blood drawn).
It is the first time we have had a flu shot from a pharmacy, as opposed to a hospital. In terms of convenience and price, you can’t beat it. No lines and a minimum of waiting. Yes, there was a fair amount of paperwork to be done. But, overall it was quick. Basically, in and out.
The pharmacist who administered the injections was very nice. We had never seen her before. The Alton Hannaford pharmacy currently does not have a permanent pharmacist. For 2 years or more we had two really decent men, who we got to know quite well. We are supposed to be getting a new one within the month. Till then the pharmacy is served by floaters.
This pharmacist, very openly, admitted, even without us asking, that giving injections is not something she had expected to do when she was studying to be a pharmacist. It is very apparent that she was not taught to give injections at ‘school’. She had an interesting, but effective, technique. She didn’t inject per se; she jabbed, handling the syringe as if it were a dart. You could tell she has practiced on poor oranges. Told me that I am thin-skinned. Wow.
Though I am very happy to have got the shots, with the minimum of fuss, the whole process bothers me. First of all, I feel bad for the pharmacists! I have to assume that they don’t really have a choice in this matter — other than trying to find a job with somebody else. They should not be expected to give shots. That is not what they trained for. I wonder if Hannaford has any pharmacists who have refused to give shots. They should have a choice in this matter.
I checked the pharmacist, as I am wont to do with most professionals, on her knowledge on the subject, and she got it wrong. I asked her if this was a NEW vaccine for ‘this year’ and she glibly responded: ‘we get a new vaccine every year because the flu strains are different’. Wrong! There was no new vaccine last year. They used the same one as they had used the year before. How do I know; I checked with the CDC. Why did I do that; because Walmart started offering flu vaccine in early September (maybe even August) and I couldn’t fathom how they could have come up with a formula that early.
Yes, there is supposed to be a NEW vaccine, with protection against two new strains added, for 2012 – 2013. Not sure whether we got that. As far I know she could have injected water from the tap! Yes, I am a cynic. Yes, I saw her extract fluid from a small vial, but who knows. The drug company could be shipping duds. Yes, I am very cynical.
I have never been a fan of flu shots until of late. This is just the 3rd flu shot I have had. I am genetically prone to bronchitis. For the last 30 years, once in Spring and then in the fall, I get a real bad case of bronchitis. I would always end up having to take antibiotics, sometimes multiple courses. So I was finally persuaded to get the flu shot, especially as I get closer and closer to 60. The first year we happened to be at Dartmouth Hitchcock in Lebanon when they were having a free flu clinic. That was ultra convenient and the price was right. Last year we also got it from DHMC, but at Concord; our ‘Primaries’ being there. We didn’t make a special appointment or go to a scheduled clinic. Deanna had an appointment with her Primary and she asked for a shot while she was in there. I asked whether I could get one too, and since my Primary is also there it proved not to be an issue. They charged our insurance.
Hannaford yesterday told me that my shot was not covered by my insurance. They were wrong on that too. I called up my insurance, the NH State ‘NH Plan’, and they said I was 100% covered outside of my deductible. They claim that Hannaford most likely billed it wrong. So I now have to submit a claim. But, overall in terms of convenience and cost ($25) it was a good deal. By the way, I did call Huggins. They told me to try a pharmacy.
I have mixed feelings about vaccinations. Though I was a child growing up, 50 years ago, in a poor 3rd world country, I was lucky enough to get vaccinations against most things. Chicken pox vaccination was before my time and I got chicken pox when I was in my 40s. I never knew until much later what that could have done for me. Luckily I came out of that alive and with everything working. I have never had a tetanus shot, and as good, enlightened doctors will now point out … there is not much point getting one. That I haven’t got tetanus after all the cuts I have had indicates that my body has built up resistance on its own. A few years ago I worked out that c. 1960 I was one of the folks that received the then brand new ‘sugar cube’ polio vaccination as part of the patient trial process. Yes, they tested it out on brown kids in Ceylon. My uncle, who was a doctor, had a hand in arranging for this ‘free’ nationwide vaccination program, but since he is dead I have no way of finding out if he knew that this was a trial. All of us kids in Ceylon, including his then 3 sons, took it — by mouth. It was a big deal. Lots of media coverage. Lots of political publicity. We were told to wear our best to school for the occasion. We lined up. They put the sugar cubes in our mouth, a bit like the Eucharist. We survived and polio never really got a foothold in Ceylon. I have seen more people, in general, with polio in this country than I have in Ceylon. Some are my age. They did not get vaccinated. It was still being tried out on us. Funny how the cookie crumbles.