A flu campaign began this week in Ontario encouraging the public and health-care workers to receive their flu shots. Although flu season is on its way, there are some people who still do not feel the need to get their shots, which puts them and others at risk of poor health this upcoming winter.
The “Let’s Get Fluless” campaign launched Monday at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre where the province’s chief medical officer, Dr. Arlene King said she would like to see 90 percent of health-care workers fully immunized.
According to Global News, King said about half of Ontario’s hospital staff have had their flu shots and 10 to 20 percent of Canadians get the flu each year. However some health-care workers and people of the general public do not feel the need to get their shots because of their lack of concern for safety and confidence in the vaccine’s effectiveness.
“Some people may not be worried about becoming severely ill with influenza themselves, and may not realize that even before they have symptoms of influenza they could spread infection to others,” says Public Health Physician, Liane Macdonald. “Others may also have questions about how well influenza vaccine works and how safe it is but it is the most effective tool we have to prevent the flu.”
Dr. Doug Sider, who also works for Public Health Ontario, agrees with Macdonald but says “the only thing that might be added is that the vaccine protects against influenza, although not perfectly, not against the myriad other respiratory viruses that circulate each year that cause ILI (Influenza-like illness).”
Although the vaccine may raise questions on its effectiveness, Councillor Joe Mihevc, member of Council and Ward 21 says 53 people have died of influenza in Toronto last year. “Get your flu shot ASAP,” Mihevc says. “I know someone who didn’t get their flu shot last year and they’re still shaking it off.” Getting a flu shot may not just be important for your health but also the health of your neighbor, especially those with a weak immune system.
“Everyone aged six months or older in Ontario can benefit from publicly funded influenza vaccine, as long as there is no medical reason not to receive it,” Macdonald says.
However some people, especially children, are too frightened to take needles, which is another reason why people do get their flu shot. According to Jerry Emanuelson, writer of the The Needle Phobia Page, between 4 and 10 percent of the population has a form of needle phobia.
“A nasal spray (FluMist) was approved for use in Canada in 2010,” says Macdonald. it contains weakened live influenza viruses instead of killed viruses found in other influenza vaccines but is not publicly funded in Ontario.”
Macdonald believes that people need to understand why the flu shot is important.
“Public health and health care providers draw on the best available scientific evidence to provide people with the information they need to make decisions about influenza, from sources they can trust,” says Macdonald. “We tailor information for different groups, so everyone can understand how they can protect themselves and others.”