A friend of mine developed some shoulder pain last fall and asked me to look at what the injury may be. I was a little hesitant to jump in, as I am not an orthopedic practitioner at this time, but did my best to determine the possible cause. I started with active range of motion, then some manual muscle testing and noticed she continued to describe pain in the upper deltoid area that I could not replicate other than with active shoulder flexion and palpation to the area. Long story short, my friend had developed bursitis following an influenza vaccine she received just one week earlier.
I don't actually remember learning about that diagnosis in school; perhaps I was sleeping that day. I did some research and found an article from 2007 titled "Vaccination-related shoulder dysfunction" (Vaccine. 2007 Jan 8; 25(4): 585-7. Epub 2006 Sep 8.) and learned that flu shots (or other vaccines) inserted into the upper third of the deltoid muscle can result in injury to the muscle and may develop into more serious injuries.
Since the H1N1 flu pandemic took over the nation, the number of mandatory flu shots for health care workers continues to grow. This article by Time magazine questions the legality of making flu vaccines a job requirement. Health care facilities generally have requirements for other vaccines, such as measles, mumps and rubella, and a flu vaccine is really no different. Yet people in any industry are protective over what goes into their bodies. Most employees want to protect their patients, but there is a valid argument regarding where is the line drawn over the right to privacy. If one vaccine becomes mandatory, what are the chances of further vaccine requirements?
Personally, I get a flu shot every year, in spite of the risks of shoulder dysfunction. I would rather be protected than vulnerable to using more of my sick days, and I would hate to carry anything to my patients. I actually just came down with a common cold, and after coughing for the past week I remember how much I hate being sick. Learning about shoulder dysfunction following a flu vaccine just reinforces how important it is that I get my shot in my non-dominant hand! After all, I know many good physical therapists who can treat me if that should ever happen.
What do you think? Do you get an annual flu shot? Does your employer require you to get one?