Shoot now, ask questions later


PHOTO COURTESY UNSPLASH

The aches and pains have subsided, the dizziness has gone away, and I’ve had two nights of pretty good sleep, all thanks to a double dose of vaccines I received late last week.

After a good friend came down with a nasty case of shingles, she urged us all to get ourselves vaccinated in order to avoid going through the horrible pain and discomfort she’d been enduring for weeks. It was enough to light the proverbial fire under me – I booked the appointment for my second Shingrix shot six months after receiving the first one. To add insult to the side effects, I paid for it out of my own pocket. To add more insult, I got the Shingrix even though I had already paid for the Zostavax a couple of years ago. It was only this year I was told that particular vaccine strain wasn’t terribly effective. And while I was at it last Thursday, I opted to get the Prevnar 13 vaccine against pneumococcal pneumonia in the other arm, just for fun.

Most of us who are either Boomers or Generation X suffered through chickenpox as kids, along with measles, mumps, and whooping cough. I got the latter when I was 12. Trust me, it’s gross. Contracting most of these childhood diseases gives you immunity for life, or reinfection is reportedly less severe the second time around.

Except for chickenpox.

This repugnant outlier can stay dormant in your system for years, hiding out in some nerve ending near your spinal cord, just waiting for your immune system to lose some of its strength and for you to get a little run down. Then it ‘reactivates’ and attacks your body in forms that can include a painful rash, burning sensation, muscle weakness, nausea, blisters, and more, none of which sound remotely fun.

So if there’s a vaccine available, why would anyone want to suffer through the affliction rather than the prevention? Putting aside the whole anti vax movement (I’ll revisit that rant in another column) there’s the financial cost involved.

At $165 a dose for Shingrix and $125 for Prevnar 13 (that’s what I paid, it may be cheaper elsewhere) it’s a hefty price tag, especially right before Christmas, and considering we have public healthcare and a provincial drug insurance plan, why aren’t these vaccines freely available to our greying population?

At this point, my friend has had four doctor’s visits, been placed on antiviral medication, and has missed time from her two jobs. This has a ripple effect on her coworkers and her family. With more Boomers and Gen Xers going through our 50s and 60s, the societal cost will become exponential, much more than it would cost to immunize the at-risk age group as a preventative measure.

The young man who works for the company that provides my husband’s collective insurance plan was very nice.

“Shingles is horrible,” he said, explaining his girlfriend had had them. Then he broke it to hubby that neither vaccine I received was covered by the insurance plan, but hastened to agree, “Yeah, it sucks.”

So, while I’m heading into the holiday season somewhat poorer, I know I’m protected from an insidious little infiltrator waiting to pounce when I’m at my most vulnerable.

And the upside is that my husband, who previously believed he was bulletproof and immune to contracting shingles, has agreed to get the vaccine himself. Not from anything I said but from a discussion with a sympathetic voice at an unhelpful insurance company.

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