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November 12, 2019

I Didn’t Want To, But I Did It

By Joanne Fruth, MD


I finally got my flu shot last week – I kept putting it off. I used the excuse that I really wanted to get Flublock. Flublock is a newer type of flu shot which has a slightly higher immune response than flu shots incubated in eggs. It’s good for the over-50 crowd. That’s me.

I put it off because– “I hate flu shots”.

My “hate” is really a “fear”. I’ve had a needle phobia for years. It’s weird, uncontrollable and irrational the way phobias are. I can use a needle very effectively to inject a joint, anesthetize a laceration or deliver subcutaneously buprenorphine (sublocade) for opioid use disorder, but an IM injection? Count me out.

I overcame my fear again this year and sat in the chair with tears welling up in my eyes as Casey gave me the injection. She did a great job.

So when my patients say they don’t want a flu shot, I may be more empathetic than some physicians. Some folks have needle phobias like me, others believe the vaccine will harm them in some way or is a government conspiracy, and others just prefer to take their chances, as in “I never get the flu”.

Odds are 1 in 10 that you’ll get the flu this year, and 1 in 1,000 people who get the flu will die.

When I try to encourage my reluctant patients to get a flu shot, I weave this fairly convincing persuasion. It’s the reason I overcome my fear and get the flu shot every year.

Here’s how it goes:

“Every year, 40 – 60,000 people die from influenza and nobody dies from a flu shot. Now I don’t think you’ll die, but think about who you might kill. The little bitty baby or little old lady. The pregnant woman in church or the lady going through chemotherapy in your office. We need to protect the vulnerable in our population from getting the flu.”

The talk often works, but I respectfully accept the decisions of those who decline. They may be dealing with fears they haven’t yet overcome.


Dr. Fruth is a family physician with a mission to promote the benefits of primary care and especially Family Medicine (#FMrevolution).  As Medical Director at Avance Care, Dr. Fruth uses her years of experience and passion for teaching to inspire other clinicians to make each primary care visit one which builds the foundation good health

Dr. Fruth loves hiking, trips to Broadway and seeking adventure (or a quiet evening) with her emergency physician husband. She has three adult children on their own missions to make the world a better place.

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