This winter in the Southern Hemisphere (also known as summer in Canada) Australia, Hong Kong, and other areas experienced a particularly nasty flu season. As the flu season in these countries often indicates how bad the season in Canada will be, this is bad news. Often times, it seems like Canadians consider the flu inconsequential, but 3500 people die in Canada from influenza each year. And, given the especially bad strains that Australia faced, health officials here are expecting that number to be higher than average.
Feel Less Sick. Many Canadians don’t bother with the flu shot because they see click-bait headlines proclaiming the flu vaccine is only 20% effective or something like this. What most people don’t seem to understand is that doesn’t mean that only 20% of people who get the vaccine are actually protected. It’s more like, the immune system of anyone who gets the vaccine is 20% better at finding and killing the virus than everyone else. While it’s true the vaccine might not be perfectly training your body to search and destroy the particular strain of flu that hits Canada, the practice still gives you an edge. This reduces the chance you’ll get sick at all, and if you do, you’ll likely have fewer and less severe symptoms.
Protect Others with Herd Immunity. Some Canadians simply can’t get the vaccine. They may be too young (under 6 months), be immunocompromised, or allergic to one of the ingredients. When 75% of Canadians vaccinate themselves against the flu, Canada benefits from herd immunity which keeps these vulnerable people safe. At the moment, however, only around 20% of Canadians vaccinate, so these young infants and other Canadians are more likely to get infected, hospitalized, and worse. To help improve Canada’s herd immunity, tap into our culture of kindness and caring for others. Remind your coworkers and friends that protecting those who can’t protect themselves is the Canadian thing to do. Throw a vaccination party and invite everyone you know.
We Need You to Vaccinate! While vaccines are free for most Canadians, some provinces will ask for a nominal fee. Even in those provinces, though, the fee is waived for many people. Babies and toddlers between 6 months and 23 months, seniors over 60, those with chronic illnesses, and pregnant people should be able to access the vaccine for free regardless of which province they live in. Furthermore, if getting your 6 year old to sit still for a vaccine seems like a great feat, children and teens can actually receive the vaccine as a nasal spray. The nasal spray is, in fact, more effective for this age group.
Ready to get vaccinated? It’s November, so most clinics will be ready to offer the flu vaccine. Many pharmacies don’t even require you to schedule ahead, so there’s no reason not to just drop by on your way home from work. Good luck and stay healthy!