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I’ll be honest: I didn’t always think getting immunized was important. After I finished school and wasn’t required to get them, I didn’t. I’m not opposed to vaccines at all. I’ve just always had some weird belief that if I was meant to get sick, I would and if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t. Heck – I’d even travel internationally, ignoring all the recommended travel immunization rules. That’s right…I played Russian roulette with my health.
Then, last year, my brother was hit with a bout of the shingles. In case you didn’t know, shingles are caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you get better from chickenpox, the virus sits dormant in your nerve roots – stress or a weakened immune system can bring them back to life in the form of shingles. My brother developed the shingles rash on his face, was in severe pain and out sick from work for a while. That was a wake up call, for sure. I didn’t want to get shingles…the flu I could deal with. But shingles? No, thanks. I realized it was time to educate myself on the different types of vaccines available and then decide if they were for me.
So, to Walgreens I went. Walgreens’ award-winning immunization program administers a wide range of CDC-recommended immunizations and vaccines for adults and seniors. You can talk to a pharmacist who will happily answer all of your questions and make a personalized vaccination plan just for you.
During my visit, I explained to the pharmacist that I was ambivalent about immunizations and vaccines partly because of blissful ignorance and partly because of fear. I was diagnosed with MS a few years ago and have heard from others afflicted with this illness that vaccines are bad for you, that they can cause relapses and aggravate your MS symptoms. Since I feel healthy 90-percent of the time, I didn’t want to do anything that would jeopardize that.
Turns out I was horribly misinformed. The pharmacist told me that certain live virus vaccines, like the shingles vaccine, might not work for people with MS, but a typical flu vaccine is perfectly safe. I was kind of irritated with myself when I heard this. I’d avoided getting a flu vaccine because I thought it would aggravate my MS. Because I avoided the flu shot for so long, I would catch the flu AT LEAST twice a year…the 2+ weeks I spent sick in bed each year could have been spent with family and friends, or taking a spur of the moment trip. Well, now I know better. While some vaccines and immunizations won’t work for me, I am so much more informed than I was before, and I now have a better healthcare plan going into fall. Full disclosure: I didn’t get a flu shot during my visit. I feel like I have to consult with my neurologist before I make a final decision. But I now know that whatever decision I make will be an informed one and not based on stuff I heard or read on the internet.
If, like me, you’ve been avoiding immunizations because of ignorance or fear or both, I urge you to head to Walgreens to talk to a pharmacist. I won’t take up a huge chunk of time and you will learn a lot. Even if you walk out deciding not get immunized, you will walk out informed. And that, to me, is the most important thing. You have to take control of your own health and you can only do that when you have accurate information.
If you DO decide to get immunized, you couldn’t have picked a better time! Walgreens has partnered with the United Nations Foundation’s Shot at Life campaign. For every person who receives a flu shot or any immunization at Walgreens from now until October 14, 2013, the campaign will supply a life saving vaccine to a child in a developing country. By doing something positive for your own health, you will also be doing something positive for the health of a child who could not otherwise afford it. Together, Walgreens and the United Nations Foundation will provide up to three million vaccinations for diseases like polio and the measles. It’s totally win-win!
Interested in taking that first step? Click here to find Walgreens Healthcare Clinic in your area. Make sure you follow Walgreens on Facebook and Twitter, and check out my Google+ album for more photos my Walgreens immunization intel mission.