To Get the Flu Shot or Not?
You may recall last winter’s flu strain was severe. Most adults did not get the protection, and many regretted it. Easily caught and spread, it is never a nice experience: headache, chills, cough, fever, loss of appetite, muscle aches, fatigue, running nose, watery eyes, throat irritation and sometimes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
The federal and provincial governments’ flu vaccine campaign has geared up, and below are answers to common questions people have regarding the flu shot.
Can I get the flu from the flu shot?
The virus in the vaccine is dead, so it is impossible to get the flu from the vaccine. These dead proteins fool the body into thinking it has been exposed to the flu, triggering your immune system to produce antibodies against the flu. Since the vaccine needs two weeks to trigger your immune system, the earlier you get the shot in the flu season, the more protected you are.
Why do some people get sick even after they got the flu shot?
Each year the vaccine is matched to three strains of the virus that are expected to be the most common for that season. Last year, the vaccine reduced the risk of getting the flu by approximately 60%. The question to ask is “Is 60% coverage better than nothing?”
I am healthy; do I really need it?
While you may be healthy now, having the flu is never a pleasant experience, and it is a burden on the system. The Canadian Healthcare Influenza Immunization Network states that 1.5 million lost work days results in healthcare costs and lost productivity of $1B annually. Canadian Healthcare Influenza Immunization Network Influenza Fact Sheet
The flu can be risky for everyone, even healthy adults. A good example was the H1N1 deaths, 90% of those were people under the age of 65.
The flu is highly contagious and it could easily be passed along to someone far more vulnerable. Each year between 2,000 and 8,000 people die from the flu or its complications in Canada. Those who are in the high risk category include seniors, children between 6 months and 5 years, pregnant women and those with certain health conditions. For more information, visit Canada Public Health.
Is it really safe?
There is a growing mistrust of vaccines. There was some concern of a link between an ingredient called thimerosal in the vaccine and autism. However, there is no clinical evidence that this is true. If you are still concerned, there are two thimerosal-free flu vaccines in Canada, but they are not publicly funded. Both are available for private purchase; speak to your family doctor if you are interested. Or for more information, visit the Centre for Disease Control.
One valid concern is for those individuals highly allergic to eggs. One valid concern is for those individuals highly allergic to eggs. Some flu vaccines are made using eggs, which means there are tiny amounts of egg proteins in the vaccine. But, this does not mean if you are allergic to eggs you cannot get the shot. Most people with egg allergies can still safely have the vaccine. For those highly allergic, there are vaccines that do not contain egg proteins. If this is the case, or you have an egg aversion, speak to your family doctor or visit the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
I do not have a lot of spare time, how convenient is it to get the shot?
Provincial governments are making it very accessible for individuals to get the vaccine. All provinces publicly fund the vaccine for everyone, with the exception of British Columbia and Prince Edward Island where it is publicly funded for high risk individuals. In Ontario, Nova Scotia and British Columbia pharmacies can administer the vaccine. To find an administration location near you, please visit Immunize Canada .
Canadians are fortunate to have access to a vaccine that can help them stay healthy. Do yourself and those around you a favour; get the flu shot.