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My dr. wants me to have innoculations: flu shots; pnemonia shots; shingles shots: How safe? What are risks verses true benefit

By September 26, 2008 - 1:51am
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I am a mature woman in excellent health and still working. My dr. wants me to have shots for flu, pneumonia, and shingles (Surely, not all at the same time!) I have heard scary stories about women who have nearly died from something that sounds like guillome-barre syndrome after getting a flu shot. Is that common?

I had a very bad bout of flu when I was 8 or 9. I had serious pneumonia at age 3 and several milder bouts as an adult. I had the mother of all Chicken Pox bouts when I was 10 or 11. Now my dr. thinks I am at risk of flu, pneumonia, and shingles.

I am a practical person; if it makes sense to do so, I usually follow my dr's suggestions. But lately we hear of so many medications, some prescribed for years, that later show side effects worse than the condition they were meant to relieve or prevent.

Where can I find good info on these inoculations that can help me to make a better-informed decision?

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Hey, Pam,
So sorry about your bout with shingles! Ouch, ouch. My bout was more than 10 years ago and yet I can still recall exactly how much it hurt. Nerve pain is such a different pain than other pain. I remember that it hurt even when nothing was touching it, not even a cotton sheet. It was sensitive even to breeze from the ceiling fan.

This story on CNN with Mayo Clinic info in it states that most people develop shingles only once (Thank heavens, right?) You might also be interested to know that even when your blisters are gone, you may have pain at the site for quite a while (I did.) It's called postherpetic neuralgia, and basically means your nerves are still sending pain messages to your brain:


As far as your question about the shingles vaccine goes, I think it's a good one. I think that with any vaccine, they target the most vulnerable populations first, and with shingles, more cases occur in people over 60 than in other age groups. But now that there's a chickenpox vaccine, maybe common acceptance of the shingles vaccine will be right behind.

October 17, 2008 - 9:45am


So many stories that we hear make this a scary topic for some people. Vaccinations are in the spotlight so often that it's hard to remember that the vast majority of them are safe for the vast majority of people.

You're also very smart to want reputable information; there is a lot of misinformation on the web that's often well-intentioned but can be incorrect.

Here's a page from WebMD.com that discusses the things you want to know about getting a flu shot:


The syndrome you heard about associated with flu shots is Guillain-Barre. People who have had this illness in the past are generally counseled not to get a flu shot. Here's an article in the CNN library on the connection between the two:


And here's a page from the Centers for Disease Control that says that one out of a million people are at risk of GBS after receiving a flu shot:


Now let's talk about the pneumonia shot. Pneumonia is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable death in the United States, and combined with the flu it is the fifth leading cause of death overall, according to this page on about.com, which offers good information about who is at risk and what the side effects are:


And now let's talk about shingles. I can tell you that I also had a very bad case of chicken pox as a child, and yet I had a bout with shingles when I was in my late 30s. You do NOT want to ever experience shingles. The blisters and nerve pain from shingles is intense and the scarring can be quite severe. Here's an information page on shingles:


and here's a Mayo Clinic page on shingles that defines shingles, discusses symptoms, causes and risk factors (if you have had chicken pox, if you are over 60, if you have a weakened immune system for any reason or if you have direct contact with someone who has shingles, you are at an increased risk. Click on the "Prevention" button to read about the vaccine, including who and who should not consider getting it.

Hope this was of some help!

September 26, 2008 - 9:11am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Diane Porter)

Hi Diane,
I am 39 and just getting over my first (and hopefully last!) bout of shingles. It was miserable - I don't think I have ever been in so much pain.
I'm sure you can absolutely relate! I keep reading all over the web that the shingles vaccine is recommended for those over 60. Why don't they recommend it for those younger than 60 but who have already had shingles? Do you know anyone in our category who has had the vaccine? No one should ever have to go through this... and especially more than once!

October 16, 2008 - 12:33pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Diane Porter)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Diane P ~

Thank you so much for your helpful insight and information sources for the inoculations. I will look into all those sites and arm myself with facts. I appreciate your taking the time to reply.


September 26, 2008 - 12:30pm
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