The Bottom Line: Flu myths and facts
Residents are encouraged to report adverse reaction to vaccine
MILWAUKEE -- Latonya Lavender was shocked when a full 24 hours after her son received a flu shot at the doctor's office, his armed swelled to twice its size.
10-year-old Todd also complained of nausea and dizziness. He had never suffered a reaction with the nasal spray. This was the first time in his life that he had received the flu shot.
"I wasn't happy to know that 24 hours after the injection he could have such a reaction," Lavender told CBS 58 News, "They say to look over the course of time, but not a whole day later, your child could have a pretty serious reaction."
Since his reaction happened on a weekend, Lavender took her son to a walk in clinic near their house. A staffer there told her there had been other complaints about the same problem.
"They had several other cases with the same reaction to the shot," Lavender said.
But when CBS 58 News checked with the public relations department for the health facility they said they had no record of a cluster of bad reactions like Todd's symptoms.
Still. Waukesha Allergist John Basich says the unconfirmed reports shouldn't be discounted and instead he urged that patients report it.
"I haven't seen an increase in patients reporting at least to us," Dr Basich explained, "Then again, if you have a reaction you should probably tell whoever gave you the vaccine. So they can monitor it and report it to see if something really is going on."
The place to report is the "Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System" or VAERS. The number is 1 (800) 822-7967.
CBS 58 News will continue to monitor flu activity and adverse reaction reporting and provide updates throughout the winter.
In the meantime, we went to a local expert, Dr. Margaret Hennessy of Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare to find out if the flu shot makes you sick.
"That's a great question and I would tell you for most people it's not."
Dr. Hennessy cited some recent studies.
"They compared people who got a flu vaccine and people who got a placebo and really the side effects were the same."
But the doctor says there's so much mythology about the flu and so many people are afraid that it's hard for her to convince skeptics.
"It;s hard for me to convince you that if you got a flu shot and then felt crummy that it wasn't something you ate or maybe coming into contact with somebody with a respiratory ailment.
At the Walgreen's at 76th and Capitol in Milwaukee, Pharmacist Zack Karras says he's always asked if the flu shot will give people the flu.
"The answer is absolutely not," Karras declared, "It uses a non live form of the virus. Only the mist, that's the only form that has live virus, but it's weakened and we have patients fill out a questionnaire so we can factor the risks."
Which brings us back to that Milwaukee mother and her son.
Even after all they've been through they still wouldn't say no to the flu vaccine and, for them, that's the bottom line.
"I think the benefits outweigh the risks," Lavender told CBS 58 News, "But I think when you're dealing with children and elderly there should be more information about the reaction."