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Poetry and Medicine
December 5, 2012

Myth Dispelled

Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor. Poems may be submitted to

Author Affiliation: Medical Faculty Associates, George Washington University, Washington DC (

JAMA. 2012;308(21):2178. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.8335

The flu vaccine cannot
give you the flu, I tell him.
It's dead virus, there’s
nothing alive about it.
It can't make you sick.
That's a myth.
But if we bury it in
the grassy knoll
of your shoulder,
an inch under the stratum
corneum, as sanctioned by
your signature
in a white-coated ceremony
presided over by
my medical assistant
and then mark the grave
with a temporary
non-stick headstone,
the trivalent spirit
of that vaccine
has a 70 to 90 percent
chance of warding off
the Evil One,
and that's the God’s
honest truth.

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