Flu Shot and Fear Withdrawal Syndrome

Majid Ali, M.D.

January 9, 2015

“The Iowa Department of Public Health predicts close to a thousand Iowans will die from the flu virus this year. It’s already claimed the lives of three Iowa children and doctors are urging for those who have not yet been vaccinated, to get vaccinated.

The Polk County Public Health Department says it has seen an increase in vaccinations from last year. A spokesperson says in the past week, the clinic has seen a sudden spike.

“People are realizing the flu doesn`t discriminate. It affects really healthy people it affects young, it affects old,” says Nola Aigner.

However, there are still some skeptics and medical experts say that’s frustrating. Doctors say because the severity of this year’s influenza a strain, getting vaccinated is the best way to protect against the virus.

Contrary to popular belief, doctors say a person will not become sick as a result of the flu shot but they still could manage to get the flu later on. If a vaccinated person does get ill, they will be sick for fewer days.

Two of the three children who have died from complications of the virus were vaccinated however doctors stress the vaccine is still highly effective.” http://whotv.com/2015/01/08/doctors-urge-skeptics-to-get-a-flu-vaccination/


The other day, I suffered a sudden attack of acute guilt. It was triggered by the realization that I have been unduly and persistently critical of health officials and public health policymakers. They have families to feed and need their jobs, which must be protected. I recognized that I must find something good about their work and admire it openly. But what?

My past experience is that when some troubling question arises, the answer follows soon. Indeed, the more vexing the question, the quicker and sharper the answer. The more anxiety-producing the matter, the more reassuring the response. The question of finding something good to admire in public health advice was particularly troublesome. I feared that this may be an exception. My fear proved unwarranted. The answer arrived almost instantly and was most reassuring. I decided to immediately share this with you, my beloved readers.

My Acute Guilt About Flu Shot

My sudden attack of acute guilt was provoked during a telephone visit with a patient who practices law. He expressed deep concern about flu vaccine. He did not want to take the vaccine shot. He found it most disconcerting that radio, television, newspapers, and even his friends were speaking up on the issue, always admonishing those who had not yet been vaccinated. The officials had repeatedly announced that this year’s vaccine simply did not work for about one-third of those who took it. This did not seem to matter.

Needless to point out, all of them were responding to unending reminders from health officials and public health policymakers. In a flash, I saw their infinite wisdom. These officials know the dangers of the sudden withdrawal from elements that we adapt to and become addicted to. They fully recognize their responsibility to the citizens of our United Post-traumatic States of America. They must maintain healthy levels of fear at all times, especially in cold winter months when people are at heightened risk of having cold hands and feet.

Flu vaccine comes in handy for their struggle. Keeping the flu-talk alive and robust is a simple, safe, and tried-and-tested method of achieving that noble goal. These specialists, the health officials, know their business. They are serious-minded, clear-eyed, courageous, and resilient. They are sometimes annoyed when some medical journals publish meta-analysis of published reports concluding that seasonal flu vaccines are ineffective, most notably in people over 65 years. Even The New York Times said so. I saw all this in a flash and wondered if I ever had been so proud of being an American. I could not remember.

Incremental Fear Load

We Americans live full of elemental fear. At a fundamental molecular level, we are well-adapted to this increasing fear load.  It is not, as some more-enlightened individuals claim, a matter of psychology. I assert that this has something to do with basics of evolution. I say with complete certainty that our adaptation to fear has deeper and sturdier roots than they might seem, let’s say to sugar, alcohol, or cocaine. It is woven in our DNA fabric, not merely some epigenetic phenomenon.

Suppose There Were a Sudden Outbreak of Good Health

If our fears were to be rapidly and suddenly relieved, we would be in deep trouble—a free fall into a national medical emergency. The term “Fear Withdrawal Syndrome” seems eminently suited for this withdrawal state and so I introduce it here. Let me elaborate. Imagine for a moment, just for a brief moment, that there were a sudden outbreak of good health in American. Everyone was in robust health. How would we Americans cope with total abscence of fear of disease? Can you imagine what life in the country would be if there were no TV pundits warning us about our cholesterol ratios? Or no TV commercial told us that we need Cymbalta for our pain and that the drug can kill us with a stroke, or cancer, or at least tuberculosis? Who can conceive the absolute horror of doctors not warning citizens of our great land against any disease?

What If  There Were a Sudden Outbreak of Peace in the World

I cannot imagine my life if there were a sudden outbreak of peace in the world. Can you? I have no difficulty imagining the fierce intensity and explosion of Fear Withdrawal Syndrome that would afflict all Americans. Can you?  What would we be without our drones? What a horror! Just imagining it throws me into the throes of unspeakbale fear.  How would we Americans cope with total abscence of fear of war? Now back to the qusetion of finding something to admire in the work of health officials.


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