Of Feathers and Flu Shots

I am a big proponent of vaccines in general, and flu shots specifically. I once was sick for three months with a variety of ills, including two separate instances of the flu. I was horribly miserable. Ever since, I have gotten a flu shot every year. Sometimes my company offers on-site flu shots and this year they did. I could have gone to my doctor, who offers drop-in shots; no appointment required. It still seemed a bit easier to get one at work, so I scheduled an appointment and waited.

When the day arrived for the flu shot, I drove over to the building where the nurses were there in force with the shots. The parking lot was almost full. Inside I saw two people that I work with. It was a popular time, just around lunch time. I got my paperwork and started to fill it out. It was a bit tedious, with old-school “bubbles” to fill in with a number 2 pencil. Then I got to a few yes or no questions. Have I ever had an adverse reaction to a flu shot? No. Am I allergic to eggs? No. Am I allergic to chicken? No. Am I allergic to feathers? Why, yes, yes I am!

When I took my paperwork up to the nurse, she told me that they could not administer my flu shot. She further told me that her company didn’t give flu shots to people with feather allergies. No matter that I’m not allergic to eggs, I eat them daily, or chicken, which I eat a few times a week. No matter that I’ve always been allergic to feathers and never had an adverse reaction to the flu shot. I asked if I could change my answer. She shook her head with a rueful smile and told me, quite sincerely and staring into my eyes, that even though she could not administer the vaccine, I should still get one. So, I drove over to my doctor’s office a couple of miles away and got one there. I didn’t have to fill out any paperwork, although I did have to answer whether or not I was allergic to eggs or chicken. No mention was made of feathers and I kept my mouth shut.

I am still shocked by the weird non-correlation that the company offering the flu shots had between feathers and flu shots. Either they are overly concerned with imaginary liability issues, or they want to limit coverage. Neither makes any sense to me. I looked online for an explanation and found, resoundingly, that feather allergies are not related to egg allergies and therefore should not prevent someone from having a flu shot. From the CDC Website, I found this comment about what to tell the person administering your flu shot:

 If you have any severe, life-threatening allergies. If you ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction after a dose of flu vaccine, or have a severe allergy to any part of this vaccine, including (for example) an allergy to gelatin, antibiotics, or eggs, you may be advised not to get vaccinated. Most, but not all, types of flu vaccine contain a small amount of egg protein.

Nothing is mentioned of feathers, or even chicken. The wording is also about severe allergies…makes me wonder how many people skip a flu shot, or are denied one, because of minor allergies.

So, I’ve done my part for herd immunity for the year. In addition to protecting myself, I help to protect the immune-compromised individuals in my community. It’s a simple enough thing to do.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and don’t let a few feathers stop you from doing what you set out to do!


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