When the flu shot puts you on the shelf
© by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, November 19, 2015


Normally, after the attacks on Paris last weekend, I’d be writing another column in opposition to bringing Islamic Syrian refugees to the U.S., and probably mentioning the Democratic debate in which the three candidates, even after the Paris attacks, still want to join President Obama in welcoming them as France did.

But what else can one say? The Paris massacre certainly wasn’t a surprise, though its inevitability came earlier than expected. I watched television all weekend, CNN and then the Democratic debate; couldn’t do much else because my right arm was disabled from my flu shot.

This is the reason I missed writing a column last week; I couldn’t type. But I was already planning this week’s column, in which I am going to warn you about another under-the-radar healthcare scandal.

My experience with our local healthcare system has been excellent over the years. Today’s column is a general warning about the flu shot, which I got at a medical clinic on Oct. 30 after making an appointment online.

I did notice that the two young technicians giving the shot weren’t paying attention to the patient, just talking to each other, but I’m sure other older women have had that experience; at a certain age we disappear as people. I was going to complain to the office, but unfortunately did not — until I woke up a week later with the most intense pain that I have ever had, in my right arm, climbing up into my neck.

I know that some people have a “sore arm” from the shot the next day; but this was much more than “sore.” My first line of action was to see my trusted chiropractor, Dr. Dennis O’Connor, who asked where the pain originated. I told him “right there, where I got the flu shot,” and he said, “ah.” He said some shots are being given too high, and when my partner, Chip, went online, we learned that he is exactly right — but none of the other doctors or nurses I called over the weekend, looking for treatment, knew anything about this.

The sheet I was handed after I got the shot — from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) — warned about possible “minor problems, like soreness, redness, etc.” I’ve never had these. But farther down the page, it warns that “some people get severe pain in the shoulder and have difficulty moving the arm where a shot was given. This happens very rarely.”

Didn't say what to do about it. But for the first time in my life, I went to my doctor specifically to ask for pain medication; I got just enough oxycodone for the weekend, over which Chip did more online research.

It’s called “SIRVA” — shoulder injury related to vaccine administration. Not a problem with the vaccine itself, but, because vaccines can be controversial, apparently the CDC or vaccine salesmen don’t want this information to get out, lest people stop getting the flu shot they pitch and sell every year.

Quietly, the federal government has increased its program that compensates people hurt by vaccinations — from how the shot is given by people who are not properly trained. One nurse I talked with said she was shocked when she moved here to work and learned that almost anyone is allowed to give the shots she was trained to give in nursing school.

Another nurse told me he and others were surprised this month when they suddenly received a memo urging them to make sure they gave shots properly — after the years these professionals had been giving them with no problems.

Yes, follow the money. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, since 2011, the government has paid about $18 million to 112 SIRVA victims “... other cases are pending, as there is an increased awareness by attorneys that ... SIRVA generally is caused by an injection improperly shot too high in the arm ... this can injure the musculoskeletal structures of the shoulder, such as tendons, ligaments or bursa, causing sudden shoulder pain.”

That would be “excruciating” shoulder pain, attorneys... but suing is only fun when someone gets punished. You should know that the victims are paid by a “trust fund set up to shield vaccine manufacturers from liability.”

Chip also found a WBZ investigation that aired Feb. 20, “Are Vaccines Causing Shoulder Injuries?” by Chris McKinnon, who learned that the “results can mean months or years of debilitating pain,” causing patients to take powerful medications like ... oxycodone.”

Sorry I missed the show that night. I’d have learned what I am telling you now: If you get the flu shot, make sure the technician is trained, that he/she is paying attention, find out ahead of time where that proper muscle is on your (and your children’s) arms.

My doctor is recommending that I see an orthopedic specialist, and that may mean some physical therapy. So far, along with the short-term opioid, which I traded for Tylenol or Advil (with food), except for one oxycodone at bedtime, the thing that helped the most was the “T-Relief” homeopathic pain relief cream recommended by Dr. O’Connor, who was the only person who immediately recognized the problem. He said T-Relief would help if there was bruising, which there eventually was; most of my upper arm and shoulder turned purple.

I had “Biofreeze” from my friend Mark: it helped ease the muscle pain in my neck and down the rest of my arm to my wrist; the roll-on version isn’t messy.

So, along with the sling my general practitioner gave me for “no more than three days,” and the relaxation inspired by the need to sit still and watch television, bearing witness to the Decline and Fall of Western Civilization, I am healed enough this week to type a warning column for you if you get flu shots.

Oh, one more thing: As my bruising started to fade, I read an article in the Globe about new research showing that “flu shots are probably not a good idea every year, that every four or five years is enough.”

NOW they tell us.

Barbara Anderson of Marblehead is a weekly columnist for the Salem News and Eagle-Tribune Publishing Company.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

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