by Ronny Allan
As a child, I had many episodes of what was described to me as ‘bronchitis’ but later called asthma. Mine was said to be a mild case. I always had a reliever puffer at hand. Curiously, this issue seemed to disappear when I was turned 16 but returned at age 35. Since then, I have had both a reliever puffer and a preventative puffer. They helped me to lead a normal life.
Like many people, I get head colds and the occasional flu leading to a chest infection. It’s normally just an annoying distraction, but with bed rest and some over the counter medications, it subsides reasonably quickly. In 2002, I had a mild pneumonia that knocked me out for 6 weeks. In those days, I was not receiving a flu vaccine, and I guess my body was weakened. Pneumonia takes longer to develop and can be a complication from the flu. I felt so bad, I never want that again. It did cross my mind that I may not recover properly.
In 2010, I was diagnosed with metastatic neuroendocrine cancer and decided that I needed to protect myself even more. I’ve had considerable surgery and take anti-tumor drugs every 28 days. It’s been a challenge to live with my incurable disease.
Since I have survived this experience, I would hate to let the flu virus undo all my hard work. I was able to get regular flu shots via my healthcare system on the basis of the additional risk of a cancer diagnosis. At 65, I was then able to get access to the pneumococcal vaccine as added protection against serious infections. I’m fairly certain flu vaccines help to protect me for a decade with only one chest infection of note in 2018
Then came the era of COVID-19. Pictures of people on ventilators confirmed to me how serious it was. To be honest, given my history of chest infections, it seemed more of a threat to my short-term mortality than my cancer ever did.
When the Covid vaccines were deployed, I was right in line for those and just had my 4th one last week. For two years I avoided many things, convinced that I would not cope well with this infection. Some of those inbuilt protective measures have not yet worn off. I eventually succumbed to the virus mid 2022, but after 3 vaccine doses, I was protected against the worst. My 4th shot in October was a welcome boost to that protection.
One thing I noticed over that period 2020-2022 was the opposition to vaccines in general. Clearly in my early days, people were opposed to vaccines, but social media is more prevalent today and functions as the main carrier of fake news. The issue is not just related to Covid vaccines but ALL vaccines. I don’t fully understand the motives, but it proves the power of social media as an influence that can be used and abused with claims that are patently false.
Science and epidemiology shows that vaccination is the most important thing we can do to protect ourselves and our children against ill health. The UK health service confirms that since vaccines were introduced, diseases like smallpox, polio and tetanus that used to kill or disable millions of people are either gone or seen very rarely. Other diseases like measles and diphtheria have been reduced by up to 99.9% since their vaccines were introduced.
If people stop getting vaccines, infectious diseases will quickly spread again. The World Health Organization (WHO) has listed vaccine hesitancy as one of the biggest threats to global health. There is some worry about increases in measles cases, and that is directly tied to these issues caused by social media and fake news. Children are being put at risk and the incidence of measles is on the rise. All of this despite the epidemiological fact that vaccines prevent up to 3 million deaths worldwide every year.
Flu is not always as serious as some of the diseases mentioned above, but flu on top of other illnesses makes it more of a threat, as it was for me. The best way to prevent flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year. Remember, it’s not just about me, it’s also about you as I can catch it from anyone (and so can you).
Ronny Allan is a metastatic neuroendocrine cancer patient and worldwide activist for his condition. He has written about flu vaccination previously. His story, like all others on this blog, was a voluntary submission. If you want to help make a difference, submit your own post by emailing Noah at [email protected]. We depend on real people like you sharing experience to protect others from misinformation.