My “Lady Macbeth plan” for the flu

Last month, I went to the doctor for a regular check-up. While making light of my actual symptoms, at least three different people in the office offered me the flu vaccine. They just didn’t want to take no for an answer.

Finally, I mentioned that the U.S. Air Force has stopped giving the flu shot this year to its civilian employees. And that got their attention. For a moment, at least.

People generally think of the Air Force as a pretty smart group of men and women. And that’s for good reason. The Air Force Medical Corps grew out of the Army Medical Corps when the Air Force became an independent branch of service after WWII. They convinced Congress that the Air Force has different and specialized medical needs.

Air Force Flight Surgeons have to help prepare pilots to fly at high altitude and to go into outer space. So, they are always very careful about providing healthcare to their pilots and navigators. And, I suspect, they were very careful about their decision to stop the flu vaccine.

So, while other government agencies keep pushing it, I suggest we pay attention to what the smart people in the Air Force are not doing.

Unfortunately, even after I told them about this compelling evidence, the zealous staff at my doctor’s office still urged me to get the flu shot.

I finally told them I use the “Lady Macbeth” plan to prevent the flu. Clearly, from the look on their faces, I needed to explain myself.

In Shakespeare’s play, Lady Macbeth conspires to have her husband’s royal rivals assassinated. Then, she develops a spot on her hand, which she takes as a sign of guilt.

So, she keeps washing her hands, over and over, crying, “Out, damned spot, out! All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.”

And the doctor of physic in attendance answers honestly, “This disease is beyond my practice.” Later, Macbeth says, “Throw physic to the dogs; I’ll have none of it!”

And that’s what you should do too. Just keep washing your hands (Crying out about spots is optional, unless you are doing the laundry too.)

So, while the CDC undergoes its annual ritual of “double, double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble,” preparing the next flu vaccine, you can protect yourself from the flu and their vaccine by simply washing your hands with soap and water. (Yes, the making of the annual flu vaccine sometimes seems more like witchcraft than science.) And if you must go to the “doctor of physic” during flu season, bring your own pen. As you’ll recall, the flu spreads by physical contact.

Do this and you won’t have to worry about, “by the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.”

If by chance you do get the flu, the “R-nought” contagion factor says you will probably only infect one other person. So, you won’t be starting an epidemic. As I said earlier this month, the annual flu epidemic will start with or without you. And it will go away again, on its own, as it does every year.

Well, I have to stop here today. The phone is ringing. I kid you not: It’s a robo-call from CVS reminding me to get a flu shot.


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