It’s that time of year once again, when the NHS starts talking about ‘flu vaccinations and those of us with chronic illnesses – or who fall into one of the other qualifying categories – attempt to book our appointment before winter’s half over and we’ve already been laid low by the ‘flu. Somewhat astonishingly this year, both my GP’s surgery and I were quick off the mark in being organised and by mid-September, not only had my appointment been booked, but I’d also had the injection itself. They had checked my medical records and found that it didn’t appear that I’d ever had the pneumo-vac, which led to the unexpected double whammy of a needle in each arm during my 5-minute appointment. The only years I’ve not had the ‘flu jab in the past 29 years of my T1D life were those when I was pregnant and that was down to personal choice. My one experience of the ‘flu, caused by an inability to get an appointment before November, saw me laid low for the best part of 2 weeks by a bad bout of the ‘flu and Mike and my Mum were let to rally the troops on a daily basis. For me, the ‘flu jab is not an option – its a necessity.
Since having M’s diagnosis with EGID and learning more about the long-term nature of his condition as well as knowing firsthand all about life with a chronic illness, I started to investigate whether he should also be having an annual ‘flu vaccination to help keep him healthy. Our GP offered no opinion on whether he should have it or not, though he was more than happy to agree if we wanted to go ahead, and our GOSH consultant thought it a good idea, but something that needed to be actioned by our GP. It quickly became evident that Mike and I would be the ones making the final decision and so the hard work began. I started researching the pros and cons of the vaccination for M, but with one thing and another, including his admission to GOSH for more scopes, last year just passed us by and as we had survived the onslaught of winter colds and bugs reasonably well, I shelved the idea for another time.
This autumn has sneakily crept up on me and with its arrival has come the need to revisit that discussion and make our decision. One of my main concerns was M’s egg allergy as the vaccines given are grown in hens eggs, which can cause an allergic reaction and that is something we need to avoid given M’s delicately balanced state of health right now. However, reading more on the subject (and trust me there’s a lot of information out there), the fact that M does not suffer with anaphylaxis, but rather a delayed reaction to egg combined with the availability of ‘flu vaccines with low or no egg content, I was reassured that it would be safe to give it to him.
Next I needed to consider whether to insist he has the traditional injected vaccine or if we should try the new nasal spray vaccinations, which are currently being rolled out across the UK for all children under 4. Whilst the nasal spray would certainly be easier to administer, the current NHS recommendations are that this is not given to children with a known egg allergy as there is simply not enough evidence to conclude whether it is safe or not. Much as I feel M needs to be protected against the ‘flu, I am not yet prepared to take an unnecessary risk whilst there are still alternatives available. We are struggling with his EGID at the moment anyway and adding an unknown to the mix could lead to repercussions that could affect us all for months.
So, it would appear that the debate has been settled. I have requested with our new GP that M is given the ‘flu vac and am waiting for the phone-call back to confirm that a low/no egg vaccine has been delivered to the surgery. Fortunately, M is astonishingly stoic about having injections, so I’m confident that he will take it with the minimum of fuss – it would be a whole other story if the child in question was G, but luckily we don’t feel she needs to have it too for the time being.