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Health and Fitness

Importance of Flu Shots

By Gianni Del Negro, 18 Nov, 2019

    Flu shots prevent the spread of potentially fatal illnesses to high-risk patients

    Getting vaccinated before flu season arrives gives the body the greatest chance to build up immunity to and protection from the virus. Flu season typically peaks after the holiday season and can run as late as May. This is why individuals are encouraged to get a flu shot as soon as possible into the cold and flu season.

    To an otherwise healthy person, the flu may be nothing more than five days of feeling miserable, but it’s a genuine threat to the lives of high-risk patients. One of the best reasons to get the flu shot is not just to protect yourself, but to protect those who are most vulnerable such as newborns, young children, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions or compromised immune systems.

    Getting sick with the flu can put you at risk of getting other infections such as viral or bacterial pneumonia and flu-related complications such as asthma attacks. Getting the flu vaccine only takes a few seconds, yet it can have a big impact by protecting against these life-threatening and serious complications, especially for those who have compromised immune systems.

    Many people mistakenly believe there’s no need to get a flu shot because they are healthy. But good health is not an excuse to skip the vaccine, especially if you may be in close contact with people who may be vulnerable to influenza.

    As well, many Canadians might not get a flu shot this year due to misconceptions about the benefits of receiving a flu shot and concerns about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines. The reality is that the flu shot is safe and it is the most effective tool we have in protecting against the flu, preventing its spread and ultimately it saves lives.

    While there are lingering misconceptions about the flu shot, eight in 10 (79 per cent) Canadians surveyed through a recent Insights West survey say they recognize the importance of getting one every year to help protect those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness – like babies, young children, the elderly and people with certain health conditions.

    Flu shots are especially important for the elderly and young children, who are more susceptible to flu-related complications that can lead to serious health problems or death. Even healthy individuals should get a flu shot because the higher the rate of vaccination, the greater the protection for the most vulnerable individuals. The key reason for this being Herd Immunity. Meaning that the more people who are immunized against the flu, the more protection the vulnerable have against the flu.

    As in previous years, the standard-dose, which most people receive, typically includes immunization against both the H1N1 and H3N2 influenza A virus strains and either one or two influenza B viruses. The Fluzone High-Dose, which is recommended for people over 65, provides immunization against H1N1 and H3N2 influenza A as well as an influenza B. Pharmacists at London Drugs are preparing for what could be a difficult flu season due to potential vaccine delays coupled with the early start and large number of flu cases in Australia, which is often an indicator of the severity of flu in Canada.

    Aside from getting a flu shot, other ways to protect yourself against getting the flu are:

    Wash your hands.

    Keep your hand sanitizer handy. Keep a bottle handy at family gatherings and have a small bottle on you for holiday parties.

    Avoid close, physical contact with infected individuals.

    Keep hands away from your face.

    Avoid handshakes.

    Take care when exiting public washrooms.

    Eat well.

    Rest up and de-stress.

    For any flu related questions, individuals can always speak with a pharmacist for answers about what to expect when getting a flu shot, products available for flu symptom relief should you find yourself with the flu and any other health related questions.

    About the author

    Gianni Del Negro is the Pharmacy Manager of the London Drugs on Dunbar Street in Vancouver. He has a keen interest in immunization and preventative health and has been practicing as a pharmacist for over 29 years.

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