This one may be a bit laughable, but I am scared to death of vaccinations. Not sure why. From talking with other crewmembers I have quickly realized I am not alone. Any suggestions for making this process seem easier since we are required to get certain vaccines for international travel?
Don’t feel alone in your fear of vaccinations for there are a number of reasons why people avoid them.
Fear of contracting the actual disease is a common belief. However, this is not possible with most vaccines. The reason? Like a car without an engine, most vaccines are inactivated. The virus in the vaccine has no life so it can't replicate and grow, yet the body is tricked into responding with an immune response which develops protective antibodies.
Mild reactions may still occur due to a local irritation from the shot itself or the preservative in the vaccine, such as thimerosal. Exceptions to this would be chickenpox, shingles, and the live polio vaccines, which could create a mild illness.
There's also the invincible person or those who have a lack of respect for the illness. Many people, not just pilots, feel they don't need vaccines because they have never had the disease, can't get it and never will. Surely some people are simply blessed, however from my health care perspective the most common thing I hear people say in my office is, “I’ve never had this before." Hindsight is said to be 20/20 so when someone contracts an illness, even influenza, they are much more likely to pursue vaccinations next time.
Trust is another concern for many, believing the government, either on their own or in cahoots with the pharmaceutical companies, create the need for vaccines driving Big Business. This is a nifty conspiracy theory because the appropriateness of vaccines are determined on a practical cost versus illness paradigm and there are numerous checks and balances to this approach.
The most common reason why people avoid vaccination may well be needle phobia. Also known as belonephobia, or the fear of sharp objects, this affects up to 10% of the population. For many, it's not just the idea of getting a shot, but how sensitive they are to the actual pain of the shot that’s at the root of their phobia.
Understanding the root cause of the fear generally helps to demystify the process allowing one to work through their concerns. Using logic over emotion is important while not easy to overcome. Generally speaking, when the fear of contracting the illness becomes greater than the fear of the needle or the vaccine, one will proceed. Think about this: in reality, we are all pricked and poked in many ways far more uncomfortable than a quick needle stick. However, our emotions are very powerful in helping us move through life. Good doctors and good pilots use logic and rational decision-making to confront challenging and scary situations every day. Using those same attributes will help you pursue what is necessary to promote optimal wellness!
To your good health,
Advanced Senior AME
Heart Attack and Stroke Prevention
Family and Sports Medicine