How to get Vaccinated

This post has been submitted by an ExCS group contributor. If you have questions about vaccinations, please ask your Doctor or other healthcare professional. For more posts about Healthcare see Healthcare Resources


As someone raised in Christian Science, you may not have received recommended vaccinations as a child. This can leave you vulnerable to preventable diseases, and can also make you a carrier who could transmit these diseases to people who are unable to get vaccinated. Many ex-Christian Scientists view getting vaccinated as an important step in their recovery.

In this blog, I use the terms immunization, vaccine, and shot interchangeably. I also provide resources for the United States because that’s what I’m familiar with, but similar resources for vaccinations standard in other countries are easily found online.

Immunizations are covered at 100% by health insurance because they are classified as preventative care. So, they will not cost you anything out of pocket if you have health insurance. There are several different types of vaccines that you will need to catch up on and get in the future. There is a standard set that all children in the US should receive, there are vaccinations that adults need, and there are also vaccinations that you should get every year, like the influenza (flu) vaccine. There are also specific vaccines either recommended or required if you are traveling to certain countries. When preparing to travel out of the country, you should check the CDC website to find out which vaccinations are recommended. In some cases such as for the yellow fever vaccine, you will not be able to re-enter the US without proof that you received a particular vaccine. Don’t worry, your doctor will tell you which ones you need.

I want to tell you about my experience with vaccinations to illustrate why it is important to get them now. I got the measles at CedarS Camps, a major summer camp for Christian Scientists, when I was a small child. There have been many measles outbreaks at Christian Science camps and Principia College. Every time, the CDC comes in and shuts it down, and the children’s parents make the choice of either having their child receive the measles vaccine or going home. Unfortunately, many faithful, well-meaning, but woefully and willfully ignorant Christian Science parents expose their children to complications including pneumonia, encephalitis of the brain, and death by skipping this one vaccination.

My family moved several times when I was growing up. Every time we moved and I had to enroll in a different school, my mother had to scramble to produce notarized documentation that exempted me from vaccinations for religious reasons, which was legal in the state I grew up in. Every time, either she had to find these documents after having just moved or get new ones notarized and this always caused a scramble and an awkward delay. This happened again when I was registering for college classes and the delay caused me to miss getting in to some of the classes I needed because of the time it took to get forms notarized and physically sent to the college. I also had to deal with this awkwardness when traveling internationally for a job. So, by getting vaccinated, you can avoid situations like these for times you need to produce an up-to-date shot record.

I got caught up on childhood vaccinations in my 20’s so that I could travel internationally, even though I was still sort of a Christian Scientist then. However, I stubbornly did not get the flu vaccine every year even after getting the recommended childhood vaccinations. One year, I traveled to my home state to visit extended family and got sick while visiting. It was miserable, and I remember being sick like that several times before. When I got home, I went to the doctor and they tested me and told me that I had the flu. During my trip, I had interacted with an infant and an elderly person while visiting my extended family, and felt horrible for exposing those vulnerable populations to an easily preventable, but potentially fatal, disease. I’d also exposed two planes full of people while traveling home. I felt incredibly stupid. Now, I am proud of myself every time I get my flu shot every year.

When you go to your primary care doctor, tell them that you were not immunized as a child and that you would like to get caught up on your shots. If you are comfortable doing so, you can let them know that your parents raised you without medical care. After some initial surprise, they are usually pretty understanding and relieved that you would like to get immunized now.

First, you need to find out which shots you need. You can choose to either go ahead and get all of them, or you can request an Immunity/Vaccine/Antibody Detection test. Because you were not immunized as a child, you may have gotten some diseases and already have immunity to them and therefore do not need a vaccination for those diseases. If so, you can avoid the soreness that occurs from getting an unneccesary shot and any potential side effects. You will also learn more about your childhood by finding out which diseases you had. For example, I got chicken pox and measles as an unvaccinated child raised in Christian Science. That meant that I did not need the chicken pox vaccine. I did still need the MMR (measles, mumps & rubella) vaccine in order to get immunity to mumps & rubella. I remember having the measles, but I don’t remember having the chicken pox. It’s also good to know for your health history, and having this data on record will contribute to statistics which inform public policy.

The doctor’s office will need to draw your blood for the Antibody Detection test or refer you to a lab for bloodwork. So, you will need to wait for the results before you can find out which vaccinations you need. At your follow up appointment, you will find this out and can now decide how to proceed. (You don’t have to get this test if the additional step will be inconvenient or if it’s not covered by your health insurance.)

Here is a common list of vaccinations:

Your doctor will tell you which ones you should get based on your age, health history, risk factors, etc. Some shots need to be gotten in a series of two or three within a certain period of time, like 30 days or < 6 months. If you need a series, it’s important that you come back to get the subsequent shots within the specified time period so that the immunization will be effective. There may be some vaccinations that came about more recently that your doctor might recommend for you, like the HPV vaccine, that may not be covered by your health insurance because they have not yet been added to the CDC’s list for your age group. So there is a chance that the cost for these additional vaccines might not be fully covered by your insurance, but you can call them to check beforehand. Even if there is an out-of-pocket cost, it is a good idea to get them if you can afford to do so.

Now that you know which shots you need, you can decide on the timeline for how to get your immunizations. You can get several at once or spread them out. I personally recommend that you plan to get one vaccination per month, but it may be more convenient for you to get most of them all at once and then only return for the series shots, or spread them out to get a few at a time with your series shots. For example, military members are often given 8+ vaccinations at once. Either way you choose, it should not make a difference on the cost (free).

The nurse administering the shot will ask you where you would like it. The most common place to get a shot is in the upper part of your non-dominant arm. They may also be able to give it to you on your hip. You might want to consider which side you sleep on and get the shot on the opposite side.

You may have a choice in vaccine delivery mechanisms. Anything that can be breathed in will be more pleasant than receiving it as a shot. There are also “live” vaccines, which may not be recommended if you have small children in your household, are pregnant, or live with someone who is pregnant. You might be advised to wear long sleeves to sleep in for some period of time while the vaccine is absorbed. Your doctor or nurse will go over all of this with you and send you home with a pamphlet containing all of the information you need.

The annual flu shot is available at pharmacies for convenience and you can use your health insurance and skip the doctor’s appointment if that works better for you. A nurse at the pharmacy will administer the shots.

Be aware that there are potential side effects from vaccinations. The FDA has concluded that the benefits outweigh the downsides. Read the information you receive thoroughly. I personally experienced a swollen lymph node from the MMR vaccine. This happens in 15% of children who receive it. If you are self-aware and informed about what could happen to you as a result of getting particular vaccines, you can recognize when you are experiencing a side effect and find ways to reduce the impact of these side effects. You can also call your doctor’s office for advice on how to handle side effects if you experience them. For my swollen lymph node, I read that it helps to sleep on the opposite side so that the lymph node gets less blood flow. After I did this, the swelling went down. Even though I had this unpleasant side effect for about two weeks, I am still glad that I got that shot. Most of the time, the area where you received the shot is simply sore for a few days to a week and there are no side effects. I’ve gotten probably fifteen shots total and only had this very minor side effect with one.

Now that you have been vaccinated, you can feel good about participating in a free public health benefit and display your new shot record proudly. You will get sick less often, and can no longer be a potential carrier endangering infants, elderly, or people otherwise unable to get vaccinated with easily preventable diseases. Now you can rest assured that you won’t get a debilitating disease that is easily preventable. You will also no longer need to feel awkward about a misinformed religious exemption imposed on you by well-meaning parents. Your shot record will come in handy when you apply to live in a college dorm or for certain jobs.

Visiting the pharmacy

By Jeremy, an Ex-Christian Scientist group editor/writer.

Other than the doctor’s office and the hospital, the other scary new place for the former Christian Scientist entering the new (to them) world of medical care, is the pharmacy. At some point in their lives, almost everybody who seeks medical care will need to have a prescription filled. Sometimes, it’s just for the short-term or, it’s an on-going prescription or prescriptions for chronic (long-term or persisting) conditions.

In my own experience, I’ve had numerous ‘one-time’ prescriptions for antibiotics, and once or twice for immune-response suppression medication (to reduce allergic reactions); I also have on-going prescriptions for asthma medications (asthma is a chronic condition), and also for allergies. While none of this has been scary for me, at times–especially early on in my experience in dealing with prescription medications, I felt woefully and embarrassingly ignorant of how to administer them, and what they actually did to/for me. This is where your pharmacist can be your best ally and source of information.

The role of the pharmacist

Most people just think of the pharmacist as the person who measures doses and packages up prescribed medications according to doctors’ prescriptions. While this is a central role that they fill, they are also much more; and what a pharmacist can do does vary by jurisdiction, so some of what I relate here may not be applicable to where you live. Talk to a pharmacist in your area to find out what services are available from them.

In addition to their well-known role of filling prescriptions, pharmacists can sometimes administer medications and/or vaccines. In some jurisdictions, they can even prescribe some medications. However, the most crucial role they play is in their knowledge of medications and how they interact within the body, and with other medications. For the patient, the pharmacist is a source of knowledge.

Pharmacists can also advise you on OTC (over-the-counter) medications. OTC medications do not require a doctor’s prescription. Sometimes, OTC medications can have reactions with prescription medications. Also, the pharmacist can advise you on the best OTC medication for the condition you’re dealing with. For example, there are a few different OTC pain medications, and each one treats pain in a different way, so some will work better on certain conditions than others. Your pharmacist will know what’s best for you.

Additionally, pharmacists can also advise and instruct you in the use of medical devices such as crutches, braces, or compression bandages to name a few.

Ask your pharmacist instead…

For example, one of my prescriptions is for a relatively new drug that reduces allergic reactions. It is a type of steroid–a corticosteroid. I also take an asthma controller medication, which is also a similar corticosteroid. I asked my pharmacist recently if I needed to be taking the allergy medication all the time, or if I would be fine just taking it during allergy season (usually in the spring). He said that since I was already getting a corticosteroid via my asthma medication, there was little need for the allergy medication outside of times when my allergies were flaring up. So for now, the prescription for the allergy medication is going unfilled. It was easier and more convenient to simply ask the pharmacist than to try to get in touch with my doctor or the specialist who initially prescribed the medication–and sometimes, doctors can be scant with little details. When it comes to medications, your pharmacist knows everything you will likely need to know–and they’re far more accessible than your doctor is.

It’s important to have your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy and establish a relationship with your pharmacist. This way, they will know all of the drugs that you’re taking and if there are any potentially dangerous interactions. They are an important ‘safety valve’. With the advent of on-line health records (especially in Canada, where I live), the dangers of drug conflicts are being reduced, and it is becoming easier to have prescriptions filled at different pharmacies. However, a relationship with a regular pharmacist is still invaluable. Once per year, my own regular pharmacist will do a quick review of my medications with me.

Sexual Abuse & Assault Resources

“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”

Lois Lowry, The Giver

 

Christian Science can be a very lonely, isolating religion, with a focus on individual study, and an individual’s understanding of Eddy’s works. If someone is struggling to demonstrate a healing, they are at fault for not “correcting” their thinking. If someone has unfortunate events befall them, again, they are seen to be somehow lacking spiritual understanding. When one is struggling with these problems, they often feel as if they are the only one who is, voicing the problem only gives it power, and other Christian Scientists are demonstrating perfectly, surely they’re not having any trouble.

The following stories deal with sexual assault and abuse, and discuss how these issues were “handled” through Christian Science. We have chosen to share them with the hopes of reaching those who need to hear they are not alone.


There is help available and you are worth it.

ribbonNational Sexual Assault Hotline operated by RAINN – To be connected to the rape crisis center nearest to you, dial 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) 1-877-739-3895


Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape. (Justice.gov) Continue reading “Sexual Abuse & Assault Resources”

Women’s Health Resources: Menstruation, Sex & Menopause

For Teens – Early 20s

 

Women of all Ages

 

Pregnancy & Childbirth

 

NSFW, Informative & Fun