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Shot of Courage

By Kristen O'Toole
October 21, 2020

For my birthday this year, I got a flu shot. Not the kind of shots that I used to do! Things are quite different now.

These days, we’ve all heard that we should get a flu shot. Honestly, I’ve only gotten two in my life despite having MS, mainly because of laziness.

My doctors encouraged me to get a flu shot, as they do every year. But this year, it took on a different level of urgency. It’s not about me. It’s about the public health.

I got a flu shot. I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Similar to wearing a mask, I feel that it’s the compassionate thing to do.

If the hospitals have a lot of COVID-19 patients, I don’t want to get the flu and take up valuable space or hospital workers’ attention.

I know that wearing masks and socially distancing is also helping the flu and other respiratory diseases be fairly mild this year, according to data from the Southern hemisphere. However, I still felt getting the shot was the right thing for me to do.

I went to my local pharmacy and got the flu shot. I wanted to make sure I could make an appointment, which I easily did online. My pharmacy only scheduled three days in advance. Many pharmacies now allow for appointments.

My neurologist really encouraged me to go to a place where I could make an appointment, so I didn’t have to sit in a waiting room and potentially expose myself to the coronavirus. PCPs and urgent care centers also are options.

I receive an infusion of Tysabri every 28 days. I had to make sure I was not two weeks on either side of my infusion, per my doctor.

My experience was fine. It took only a few minutes. It was $5, but free with most insurances. Mine was free.

The flu shot does not contain a live virus. I know that’s what is important to those of us with MS. I did not have any side effects from getting the shot.

Flu shots are widely available. So, talk to your doctor to determine if it’s right for you. I also found this Society page to be a good source of information 

Since public health and my role in it is top of mind for me now, I am glad I got the flu shot. Happy birthday to me!


The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is proud to be a source of information on multiple sclerosis related topics. Unless otherwise indicated, the information provided is based on professional advice, published experience, and expert opinion. However, the information does not constitute medical or legal advice. For specific medical advice, consult a qualified physician. For specific legal advice, consult a qualified attorney.

Kristen O'Toole

Kristen O’Toole is a former public relations executive. She now volunteers for the National MS Society as a Walk MS Team Captain, District Activist Leader and serves on the Government Relations Advisory Council for her state, Pennsylvania. In 2019, she was named Southwestern PA’s MS Activist of the Year. She was diagnosed in 2014 and wants to raise awareness and understanding about MS until we find a cure.

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