I got shot

By Phil Plait | December 9, 2010 10:22 am

… TDAP and flu shots, that is. Much to my chagrin, I found out I hadn’t had my pertussis vaccine booster in a while, so I went to the doctor yesterday and got both that (in the form of the Tetanus/Diphtheria/pertussis shot) as well as my seasonal flu shot:


[Sorry about blurring out my tattoo, but it’s not clear that I am allowed to show it on the blog yet.]

Look: vaccines save lives. They don’t cause autism, or do any of the things the antivaxxers claim. And it’s a rock solid fact that babies have been dying all over the world from preventable diseases — 10 infants have died in California alone from pertussis this year. Most of them are too young to get a pertussis shot, so the best thing we all can do is make sure we’re up to date with our vaccines, and that means a periodic TDAP booster. Ask your doctor.

And the flu shot? Just yesterday, a four-year-old boy in New York died of the flu. The flu.

Talk to your doctor, and if they recommend it, get vaccinated.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Alt-Med, Antiscience, Piece of mind
MORE ABOUT: antivax, vaccines

Comments (71)

  1. I forgot all about your tattoo. You got it over a year ago. Has that episode of L.A. Ink still not aired?

  2. Robert

    But Phil, I got a vaccine 9 years ago that left a permanent bump of scar tisssue on my arm! Why are you ignoring the dangers?


  3. Dave

    And what is your tattoo exactly? I say people should start posting their best bets. I think it’s Yoda with Carl Sagan’s face looking through a telescope.

  4. Lila

    I want to do the right thing but I have a terrible fear of needles. I just avoid all contact with the elderly and young children. I actually spend family Xmas in a Hazmat suit.

  5. How’s that new Australian accent workin’ out for ya, mate?

  6. Lila, they now have a nasal spray version of the flu vaccine. It gives me the sniffles for an hour or two and that scratchy feeling in the back of my throat for a couple more, but that’s it.

  7. ballookey

    That tattoo bit is never going to actually air, to my understanding. It took place last year, they completed that season and they have aired another half-season PAST that. The clip is available online, so I don’t see why the tattoo can’t go public already.

    Link to video on TLC website: http://tlc.discovery.com/videos/la-ink-season-3-fiery-tattoo.html

    As much as it disgusts me to say, apparently they thought everyone else they featured that season was more interesting than the Bad Astronomer. Well nuts to them. I only watched the show in hopes of seeing Phil!

  8. Blurring of your tattoo? Hah, you’re not fooling me. That’s really the bulletproof shoulder shield that you’re using in order to fool us all into thinking that you really took that shot. Which of course you didn’t, as you evidently blogged about it, and everybody knows that autists don’t blog.

    /iiiiii – ron – yyy

  9. If LA Ink gets canceled, he’s screwed. :p

  10. Daniel J. Andrews

    Breaking news. BA says vaccines cause blurry tattoos!

  11. QuietDesperation

    Hey, I just got the same two shots. I had a very light reaction to the flu shot for a day, but other than that I wasjhh8d9ohioehnione-0JC,. P[DKP[ C[no carrier]

  12. Jan

    I got my first flu shot a month ago. I am terrified of needles, just phobic, but the nurse at the grocery store clinic had a big smile and acted like everybody’s momma. Turns out, at least at this Mollen clinic, they don’t jab you with a big needle like they are taking blood. It was barely a pinprick. The nurse was great. I was near tears and she suddenly asked a weird question that made me break up laughing. And when I recovered, she was throwing away the needle already and putting on a bandaid. That was now a month ago. Side effects? None. Soreness? Barely. Thank you Phil for nagging us on this issue. You nudged me to go do it and I did. Yay You.

  13. Ron 1

    Great example Phil.

    My shots are fully up to date and so are those of my wife and kids. Also, it’s great living in a country (Canada) where there is no charge therefore no excuse not to be fully immunized.

  14. Kevin

    I get a flu shot every year, and got mine back in October. I’m not stupid.

    But Phil… I would think you could show the tattoo off now, and talk about it. The footage of you getting it has been on the LA Ink website since last February. All someone has to do is go to the TLC website and the LA Ink section, and they can find it.

  15. Moon Starer

    While I don’t watch the show, there’s a video of your L.A. Ink appearance on Youtube. http://tlc.discovery.com/videos/la-ink-season-3-fiery-tattoo.html

  16. Nemo

    Dude, seriously, that segment is never going to air.

  17. Michel

    The tattoo is of a talking muffin isn´t it?
    And congrats on your shots!

  18. Michael Swanson

    It’s a tattoo of Wil Wheaton.

  19. I went in for my shots and asked if I could get the ones with extra mercury and thimerosal. That made the nurse laugh.

  20. XPT

    Phil, do Discovery’s copyrights cover your very skin?!?! :)

  21. @XPT

    Some people sell their souls to the devil, Phil sold his body to Discovery.

    Hmm…that didn’t come out right.

  22. But screw the kids in Africa dying from malaria. You know, Silent Spring?

  23. Neil G.

    I got my flu shot today at a pharmacy. My health insurer paid everything, no co-pay.

  24. Ray

    In 24 years in the USAF I got the flu shot every year. Every year I got sick 3-5 days later.

    In the 3-plus years since I retired I have not gotten the flu shot. Have not been sick.

    Sure, its anecdotal, but its working for me.

    And yes, all of my other shots are up to date, including a couple non-military people have probably ever heard of.

  25. Join the Reject Minion Army of the Dorkosphere We R.M.A.D!

    This year’s flu shot went down easy. Just a slight prick where it entered the skin, no burning sensation as the needle went through the muscle, no swelling, aching or bleeding afterwards, and best of all, NO FLU! Much less painful than a mosquito bite. I don’t know if I got lucky about the spot the nurse/pharmacist chose or if they are getting better at reducing side effects. (Yea for adjuvants!)

  26. Thanks Phil for (a) getting vaccinated & (b) promoting vaccination. As far as the Tdap goes, babies you may be in contact with also thank you.

    Here’s another vaccine success story:


    “Prior to vaccination, rotavirus killed about 21 children annually in the United States, and led to 57,000 hospitalizations and 107,000 ER visits, Dr. Payne said. Now, more than 80 per cent of children are immunized, and those numbers have fallen between 92 and 96 per cent.

    Dr. Payne said one of the most surprising aspects of the U.S. vaccination program is that rotavirus-related illness has also fallen dramatically in older children who are not vaccinated, due to a phenomenon called herd immunity.”

  27. Calli Arcale

    I got my TDAP last summer, and my annual flu shot last month. I find if you remember to move your arm a lot afterwards, it helps reduce the pain. Keep the muscle moving. I’ve never had influenza. Had lots of other things, though.

  28. Gus Snarp

    How long will this foolish tattoo embargo go on? We’ve all seen the video, and it’s a great tattoo. Are you permitted to go out in public without sleeves? Did your doctor/nurse have to sign an NDA before giving you the shot? Free the tattoo!

  29. @Gus Snarp

    I clearly think too much about drug regulation. I saw “NDA” and thought, “New Drug Application? Why would they need one of those?” Then rationality settled in.

  30. My wife’s put her foot down on my getting geek ink.

    Phil, maybe if I got you to sign a permission slip? :-)

  31. Andrew

    I will not be nor will never get a flu shot, because of genetic history; my grandmother was one of the few who contracted Guillain–Barré syndrome during the ’76 shots, so I’ll take my chances and rely on the rest of you pincushions to keep me safe.

    Antivaxxers are crazy. I’m a provaxxer who will not get a flu vaccine. There’s a difference. :)

  32. raatrani

    I saw the episode on cable… it aired…

  33. Rick

    I got my flu vaccine not too long ago when I had the cold pretty bad.
    I have to say, at the risk of being accused of correlation-causation fallacy, that I really think it helped stimulate my immune system to fight my cold. Probably takes longer than a day to work, but I personally like the thought.

    Go science!

  34. Cairnos

    @ 26 & 33 – Clear cases of why it’s so important that those of us who aren’t at risk of adverse effects need to step up.

    @ 14 – “The nurse was great. I was near tears and she suddenly asked a weird question that made me break up laughing. And when I recovered, she was throwing away the needle already and putting on a bandaid.”

    That sort of thing seems to be a fairly well used tactic. Last flu round the nurse asked me something and I thought “Aha, that’s the question she’s using to distract me from …Hey!” :-)

  35. Kimpatsu

    Look, I’ve been sticking needles in an effigy of Phil all day, and nothing’s happened. What am I doing wrong?

  36. Brian

    Hey Phil, my fiance got that shot yesterday too, and her arm hurts terribly! I hope you fair better!

  37. dragonet2

    My workplace gives out free flu shots, we have about 5,000 people working in one large building during non-peak and the figure out it’s worth it.

    Tetanus shots are our decade birthday present from our family doctor.

  38. It sure would be nice if I could afford to talk to a doctor on the subject of whether or not to be vaccinated.

    Yup. That would be awesome.

  39. Brian Too


    I didn’t know Phil Plait well but I mourn his passing. He was like a friend to me except we weren’t really friends. I felt friendly towards him, if you know what I mean.

    Oh what’s that? Vaccine… shot.

    Nevermind. (Long live Phil!)

  40. I have a baby girl coming in a couple of weeks (yay!) and I harangued the grandparents and aunties and uncles into getting their TDAP boosters. I forgot one person though. Me. Hopefully I’ll get my booster this week. Too be fair to myself though I did have a booster shot about 5 years ago but a booster now couldn’t hurt.

  41. DLC

    [flaming stupid] Yer gonna catch duh Autism now! [/flamingstupid]

  42. Thameron

    The death of that child in New York may not be actually relevant unless you are trying to make the case that if everyone got vaccinated then no one would die of the flu. One is a very small sample size to make a case with.

  43. I'd rather be fishin'

    I just saw this on Odemagazine.com:

    “The United Nations announced in December that world-wide Measles deaths have plummeted by 74 percent worldwide since 2000. The number of people dying from Measles every year has dropped from an estimated 750,000 to 197,000 between 2000 and 2007 mostly due to improvements in routine immunization activities.

    The Eastern Mediterranean region (including countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan) has cut measles deaths from 96,000 to 10,000. Hussein Abdel-Razzak Al Gezairy of the UN World Health Organization credits those countries’ governments policy changes regarding Measles initiatives.”

    World Health Organization; a well-known bastion of bleeding heart liberals in the pockets of Big Pharma!

  44. Monkey

    I dont believe that Phil got a tat…you see, its all a big cover up by nasa…..let me explain…


  45. Gus Snarp

    @Thameron – That’s just a recent example, statistically speaking the number killed by the flu annually in the U.S. ranges from 3,000 to 49,000 depending on how bad the flu season is.

  46. Thameron

    @47 Gus Snarp

    That is my point exactly. Lots and lots of people die of the flu. And I think that even if everyone got their shots there would still be people dying of it (less probably but not zero). Did that boy die because of lack of his lack of vaccination or because of some other extenuating circumstances? It doesn’t say. A sample size of one is scientifically meaningless. It is just an appeal to emotion.

  47. Paul in Sweden

    The doctors here do not recommend flu vaccination for my wife and myself for our age/risk group. We would go in if told. We were checking our mail last year for the h1n1 vaccination appointmen that everybody in Sweden was supposable going to get but Sweden decided h1n1 vaccination was not needed for everyone.

    The flu can be serious and recommended risk groups should be vaccinated.

    What concerns me most here is the dreaded Winter Puking Disease(norovirus).

  48. Eric the Read

    A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook a claim that miscarriages attributable to vaccines increased some incredibly high number (something like 200/yr) after the CDC began recommending all pregnant women be vaccinated against flu & H1N1. I went and checked out the site… these people are claiming that over 3,500 miscarriages are attributable to the H1N1 vaccine! Honestly this is quite literally incredible… as in, I don’t believe it. 3,500 miscarriages and nobody noticed? Sadly, I fear someone may listen to her and not get vaccinated. :(

  49. Michel

    Why do they call it shots when there is no actual shooting involved?

  50. fred edison

    I went in late September and had my yearly flu shot. I don’t like to get sick and I don’t enjoy helping to make other people sick (sick to death, maybe), so the only thing was to get to it and do it. I had a shot for tetanus maybe a year ago at the doc’s office, so I presume that was the combination Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis) shot.

    Getting a vaccine shot is one of the quickest and easiest things you can do to help not only yourself but other people, too. Get to it and do it.

  51. @JediBear

    It sure would be nice if I could afford to talk to a doctor on the subject of whether or not to be vaccinated.

    See if there is a free clinic in your area. A major hospital near me has programs for people who do not have insurance or can’t afford medical care to get the services they need. Teaching hospitals might be another option, too.

  52. Gary

    Just had my flu shot, no problem at all. One of my friends is a rabid antivaxxer (I call him Paranoid Pete) he’s going to hate me!

  53. Smitty

    Wow Phil, I just watched the segment on line. I gotta say, delightfully Geeky, yet thoroughly badass. It is a sweet looking tattoo.

    @ Ray

    Thanks to the Military, even in the Reserves, my vaccinations are kept up to date and checked on a yearly basis. Like you said, even the weird and bizarre ones that no one has heard of. I learned the hard way to ALWAYS bring your shot records to records update day. If you can’t prove you have had your shots, you will get one of every one they have on hand that day. My medical records were “missing” once and they were well supplied during my update and I got EIGHT shots in one sitting. It sucked, but it was a small price to pay to not get sick (& die).

  54. rob

    great Phil. just great. now you’re a carrier of autism. any kids you sneeze around are doomed! doomed it tell you!!!11!!1!1eleventyone!!11!

    on noes! i think i got autism just from reading this post!1!!!

    and now i have a tattoo!!! (wait, that’s just a smudge of dirt)

  55. The Beer

    @48 Thameron: Regarding Phil’s comment about a child in NYC dying from the flu, I did not take that as “proof” that we need to vaccinate.

    I think Phil was simply making a statement of “Hey, remember that people can die from the flu”. It was probably just meant as a reminder of the dangers of the flu. I didn’t read it as any kind of statistical comparison.

  56. mike burkhart

    I got a flu shot in october despite a small cold last month I’m fine off topic :In the past I mention the Astronomer who claimed to have seen a bridge across the mare cisium region of the moon, well looking at a map of the moon that had marked landing sites I found three Russian probes have landed in the region (luna 15,23,24) The pictures are with the Russian space agency but I bet they don’t show any thing unusal.

  57. Gus Snarp

    @Thameron – An appeal to emotion is not always wrong. Thousands of people die every year from the flu, this is one recent case. Vaccines can reduce the number of deaths, and save lives like his.

  58. Gus Snarp

    rob’s post just made me think of this: Phil don’t you know how many toxins you’re getting injected into your skin? Science has never disproven the link between autism and tattoos!

  59. paradoctor

    May plague and sickness pass you by;
    Be free of fever and infection;
    Be long to live and late to die;
    For the Bovine Needle provides protection.

  60. gia

    Uh, you got the tat over an year ago and they STILL haven’t aired the episode?!

  61. mike burkhart

    Needls don’t bother me to munch .But I love the hypos in Star Trek.

  62. Mister Earl

    I still remember when I got my anthrax shots before going to Iraq. That stuff is nasty. It literally feels as if they heat it to a few thousand degrees before injecting it. I remember trying to be funny when I asked the medic, “Can’t I just get mine on a cracker or something?”

  63. Around 60% of the swedish population got the vaccine for the swine-flu last year. This year it is said that there is an increase (~6 times as many) of reported narcolepsy-cases in Sweden.


    Is it related to the vaccine? I don’t know. There has been alot of buzz in the media around this topic though.

  64. Michael Swanson

    Late commenting, but thanks for posting this. While I am fervently pro-vaccine, I always forget to get my flu shot. But your post reminded me, and now I’ve been stabbed in the arm for health and justice!

  65. Heather

    That not vaccinating stuff has far-reaching effects. New infections give the disease a chance to mutate into forms against which current vaccines are ineffective. Who does it hurt?

    A boy in my daughter’s class at school who was fully vaccinated was diagnosed with whooping cough this past week. My daughter is not currently in class because she is a leukemia patient. She could be well enough to return to school in January, but with whooping cough going around it’s doubtful she can take the risk. What a way to miss 1st grade.

    When you don’t vaccinate, you kill babies and old people and fragile people. Maybe not right away, of course, but you do. And those that you don’t kill, you deprive of educational time, productive work time, and you take away a little bit of “normal” that would be a comfort to a brave little cancer patient.

    Thank you for reminding people about boosters, Phil. It’s really, really important.

  66. Vaccinations are great. I travel around the world, so I’m vaccinated for a number of things, including a Rabbies booster I got a few weeks ago.

    Here’s a tip if you’re not big on shots: Relax the muscle. If you relax the muscle, 9 times out of 10 you won’t even feel the needle. Virtually all of the pain comes through driving it through nervous, tense muscle.

  67. Unreason

    It’s a shame that vaccination is a topic that often polarizes people. Some people are unnecesarily fearful and miss shots they should get; others mock anyone who questions them. Doctors’ offices are often rushed and treat shots in a perfunctory way, acting annoyed with patient questions about vaccines. But like any other kind of medical treatment, patients should ask questions. I’ve got a number of drug allergies and have reacted to some shots. An immediate family member died from an early stage live vaccine many years ago. So in light of my own and family history, I ask questions. I do get the shots I need, but I press my doctor about which ones those really are, which I’d do better to avoid, and which there are alternative versions of that might be better suited for me. I understand that vaccines are a public health issue. But that doesn’t mean every shot is right for everyone, or that individuals should be discouraged from asking questions.

  68. Mike

    Same here.. a few months ago I went in for my first checkup in, well, as long as I can remember. “When was your last tetanus shot?” “uhmm.” “I’ll be right back.” And I got TDP and the seasonal flu shots at once. :) The next week was pretty miserable but I felt good about it. Given that I stepped on a couple rusty nails as a kid (I liked playing in construction sites), I do find it strange that I don’t remember ever having gotten a tetanus shot before that..

  69. Laura

    I got my flu and DTaP booster a few months back, and I hope I can publish my tattoo/shot picture. When I first got the DTP shot as a baby (like 36 years ago), they didn’t use acellular pertussis, and I nearly died from the shot, so for all the kids like me who couldn’t have the shot back then, thanks so much to everyone who did. Now that they use the “aP” I can have the shot, even though it still causes me a few days of pain. I think it is well worth it. Skully agrees:

    Oh, and I donate red cells, too. http://yfrog.com/h3jfoddj


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