Vaccines

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I like to say I know a bit about getting vaccines. I’ve had to get shots for the nerd camp I did at Harvard and last year’s trip to Thailand, and I’m sure I’ll get a few more before I go to Africa with my dad and sister in May and ship off to Austria. Actually I don’t think I need any for Austria. I got that immunization form faxed over to the University of New Orleans within a day of finding out I needed to. Plus I’m a doctor’s kid, so I’m pretty used to having to get shots. My father is paranoid about my sisters and me contracting various diseases.
Want an example? Hepatitis. Oh, my father is obsessed with hepatitis. You’re getting a pedicure? You have to buy your own nail kit. They don’t clean their utensils at those kinds of places. You’ll get hepatitis. (Just for the record, I agree with this statement. My dad did a great job with ) Your friend has tattoos? He needs to come to my office so I can test him or you can’t see him anymore. And I guess my dad has complete faith that I’ll never do heroin, so I have been spared the lecture about getting hepatitis from drug needles. Is my father’s obsession with hepatitis annoying? Hell yes it is. But the thing is that he’s right. Hepatitis B and C aren’t fun to deal with, and they can take anywhere from months to years to treat depending on how bad the cases are. Plus there’s that risk of dying from the disease. Can’t forget about that.
I guess I’m about to make you squeamish. I wonder if I haven’t gotten an important vaccine. Well, I guess not. Actually I haven’t gotten all of my hepatitis vaccines yet – I’m due for my second one pretty soon, I’m guessing. Polio. Meningitis. Whooping cough (that one hurts like a mother.) Influenza (not necessary, but I’m in college, and I got a terrible flu bout my freshman year and did not want to repeat it last fall.) Gardasil, the HPV vaccine that’s supposed to lower one’s rate of cervical cancer. And this isn’t a vaccine, but after I got my appendix out, my IV got inflamed, and that was scarier than any shot I’ve ever had.
Here’s what I know about getting needles stuck in my arm – and hand, because that happened to me once. First of all, and most importantly, you need to find some sort of distraction if you’re afraid of needles like I am. Lots of doctor’s offices have TVs in them, so I’d start there. No TV? Look up. Count the tiles in the ceiling, look for odd shapes, whatever. Or you could close your eyes and repeat a mantra. Mine was “The Oven Bird” by Robert Frost and the first eight lines of Paradise Lost. And if you can, make sure whoever is sticking that needle in you is good at it.
What else do I know? Getting blood drawn hurts way less than getting  a vaccine. And yeah, no matter how much needles terrify you, you should probably get your shots. It’s kind of better than dying.

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