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Tis the Season to Say No to a Flu Shot

Flu shot gift
By Cathy Jameson

Twice in the last month I've been asked if I wanted the flu shot.  The first time I was asked, the nurse was a bit hesitant, "Now, I know you usually decline it, but I'm obligated to ask...do you want a flu shot this year?"  Just like last year, and every year since Ronan's health took a nose dive, I gave her the same reply, "Nope.  All set.  Thanks."  

This nurse, who happens to be one of our favorites, looked up from the computer and apologized for asking, "I'm so sorry to have to ask you that.  You know I respect your decision, but I can't get to the next screen without answering this prompt..."  I thanked her.  Other nurses have not been so kind, so I smiled and said, "I understand.  Ronan doesn’t need a flu shot today, thank you."

Years ago, I wouldn’t have been so calm.  Being asked if I wanted that shot used to make me really upset.  I’d still be polite in my reply, but deep down, I was boiling.    

Didn't they know that was one of the worst shots Ronan ever got?  

Didn't they remember how awful things got soon after for him?  

Can't they see that we're still dealing with the side effects from the last time he got that shot?  

Of course they could see!  Most of the time, though, their hands are tied.  The nurse or whoever’s checking Ronan into the system is following orders from their employer.  Thankfully, this nurse knows us well enough to not push us.  That’s why when the flu shot was brought up in that appointment, like I knew it would, I was able to let the question she must ask go in one ear and out the other. 

Unless I continue the conversation and offer why I’m saying ‘thanks but no thanks’, newer medical providers we sometimes need to see will never fully understand why we’ll never opt for that shot again.  So when I was asked the second time in recent weeks if we’d like a flu shot, I let the new nurse we’d just met know why I was saying no. 

Having just met, she didn’t know that Ronan had been a happy, typical baby.  Nor could she know that Ronan got sick after the flu shot all those years ago.  When she met him, Ronan was a non-verbal vaccine-injured teen who has seizures and autism.  I could’ve gone on the defense and given her an earful, but I kept it simple. 

With Ronan on the exam table, and she at a small counter facing her computer, I watched the nurse scroll to a new field on the screen.  Pausing with her hand hovered over the mouse, she asked, “Will Ronan need a flu shot today?”

“Oh, no thank you,” I replied

Never glancing my way, the nurse answered, “Okay,” and clicked a box on the computer screen.

Thinking she was done with that question, she started to scroll down the page.  She paused mid-scroll and then scrolled back up. 

Here we go, I thought.

Turning to face me, she asked, “Has he already had one, or is it a preference not to get one?”

My simple answer should have been sufficient, but I added to it, “Ronan had a reaction to the shot the last time he got one.  We’d rather not see him have a reaction again.” 

Concern fell over her face as she said, “Ohhhhh.  I understand.”  Looking back at the computer she said, “Got it.  Okay, let’s see.  Next question…”

I could’ve gotten the stink eye, a lecture, or worse, been dismissed from the practice like other parents are being dismissed for foregoing shots.  But as easy as that, she moved onto the next screen and to the next question. 

I know it isn't these two kind souls who are the ones asking the annoying question I’d grown to hate - it's the system that wants to know.  With how available the flu shot is, especially this time of year, I get to tell the system that when it comes to some medical interventions, we’re all set. 

When we're asked if we want the flu shot, I say nope.  

When we're asked if I'm sure, I say yep.

If I’m asked for a reason, I’m honest. 

If whoever’s asking doesn’t like the answer I’ve given, I am free to walk out the door and never return.  I may not always have the luxury to do that, but thankfully, we haven’t run into a situation where I need to pack up our stuff and leave immediately.  In the future should I ever feel threatened, though, I will be ready to do that. 

It took years of reading and it took lots of time to build the confidence I needed to be able to say ‘no, thanks’ to our mainstream providers, but now, I speak up.  When needed, I defend my decision.  And always, I remain firm in my response.  

Saying no hasn’t always been easy, but it has been possible to go against what's considered the norm.  Since this year’s flu shot push hasn’t reached its peak yet, I'm sure I'll be asked again if I want that ineffective vaccine the next time we head to the hospital.  I can, of course, try to go elsewhere where vaccines aren't pushed, but with a medically fragile child and medically complicated kiddo, sometimes we have to go where shots are the norm.  That's okay.  I know how to say no.  

No flu shots for me or my kiddo, thank you very much.  I say it firmly, confidently, and respectfully.  Then, I politely redirect whomever it is I’m speaking to and remind them why we are there, "Ronan's appointment today…he’s here to see Dr. So and So and to talk about..."

Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.


Jeannette Bishop

Narad, that's an interesting thought...

Inronically, it appears Prop. 65 was passed in 1986, just in time for the whole medical profession to overlook the levels of Hg in the expanding schedule (were vaccines specially exempted from Prop. 65 also?):

Even the organic goji berries I sometimes buy arrive with a prop 65 label (I'm told they sometimes naturally uptake enough lead, cadmium, etc. to trigger the strict guidelines of the law).

I wonder if every vaccination violates Prop 65 in one way or other (if not several ways) and are they labelled? Would a physician be liable if that information is not conveyed with each vaccine?

If not labelled, could at least all the recipients of thimerosal containing vaccines in California sue the manufacturers? Otherwise, the law seems to me as pointless, or as much a net negative as many businesses find it to be.


The Flu Vaccines needs a Proposition 65 label: This product contains chemicals know to the State of Calcifornia to cause cancer and birth defects of other reproductive harm.

Mercury compounds are on the Proposition 65 list: http://scorecard.goodguide.com/chemical-groups/one-list.tcl?short_list_name=p65

Jeannette Bishop

This "required" question is really more offensive than I think most are capable of putting themselves in a position to see. "You were one of the unfortunate recipients of the 'one bullet in a million' empty chambers of the revolver. Do you want another go? You know we've got studies that say you're less likely to take a (don't mention just a certain type of) bullet on a population basis if you undergo our 'safe' way of shooting you..." Sorry, but once you really look at what is known, it's kind of like that.

Also, I don't think things are going to stop at just "asking" to fill in electronic records. The ironic thing is that despite the HIPAA laws (that maybe only prevent us from finding out problems with policy and "best practices") that information is probably being used and will be used in ways we haven't explicitly given permission for. Maybe people who "have to" ask, should be really asking why they "have to" ask, and maybe should consider how they can just stop.

So often lately I find myself thinking, "people should just quit." Their jobs mainly, but sometimes other activities, all just quit.

How many times do we hear that pediatricians don't really make a lot of money off of vaccines for instance (and maybe that's what they really think)?:


"I lose $700,000 a year because I don't make every kid vaccinate."

I appreciate this physician's courage and honesty, and maybe he "loses" even more in ways harder to calculate such as possibly fewer return visits from vaccine induced unhealthy conditions.

So maybe I should be thinking people should just quit being blind and dishonest about it. Is that possible?

Pediatricians should just quit taking that money or even thinking they have a right (they should probably also quit thinking they are even in the right) to "make" kids get vaccinated.

If I had a do over, I would want to avoid pediatricians and all "mainstream" "healthcare" with my children. Is that possible now?

How do we get to where we can all just confidently withdraw from the corruption and support each other and voluntary exchange of goods and services instead of clinging to jobs and world views that increasingly require selling out in a boil-the-frog kind of way.


Sigh. Every time I see the sign for Flu Shots at the Drug store, I want to draw lines to make it say

FLUSHot which is where it belongs. Speaking of which, for those who DO process and excrete all the toxins and mercury,has anyone studied if that ends up in our water systems?

Good for you for saying no. I, too, have noticed that medical personnel are getting a lot less anxious to press when I say no for myself or my son. The ones who do press get to hear a lecture, but unlike you Cathy, I get very heated. One time I got upset with the Walgreens lady who asked, then listened patiently to my reply. She said, "Oh my daughter says that's why my grandson has autism. I agree. I just have to ask for my job". She then said her daughter's name, and I knew her son from therapies. Sigh.


Hi Cathy,
Just a thought; given that your son had a bad reaction to the flu shot; like any other medical reaction, it should be listed as a medication he cannot take ( same place they list allergic reactions to penicillin, peanuts etc) Ask one of your more friendly nurses or doctors to update the reactions/allergies section on Ronan's chart.
Then next time you are asked about the flu vaccine you can say 'Oh no, he can't take that; he had a bad reaction to it; it's in his chart".
For the medical profession, once something is documented, it exists. Generally, no one actually reads the whole chart, but everyone kind of feels guilt if they haven't, and even more so if they offer a medication that is contraindicated...
Mostly, that tends to end the discussion right there, even with the more obnoxious types.
Nice to know you have some kind nurses at your practice though.
"We have religious exemption, it's documented in his chart/notes" is also a conversation stopper on that topic.

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