Flu Shot

Avoid being a seasonal flu statistic

When I was first elected as an MPP, I had never had the annual flu shot. And about every other year before my first election, I was laid flat for a few weeks by a lingering seasonal flu virus. As a new MPP, the then-Minister of Health extolled the virtues of the flu shot. I figured the risk of any discomfort from getting the flu shot had to be less than the misery I had endured from the flu in the previous few years.

Trying to be a good community role model, I took my first flu shot in 2003. And that year, I never had the flu. Nor did I suffer from any adverse effects after getting the flu shot. Needless to say, the next autumn, I made a specific point to see my doctor, and got the flu shot. And that year again, I never came down with the flu. Such was also the case, the year after, and the year after, and every year since. It’s not a coincidence. In the 16 years I have been having an annual autumn flu shot, I never once caught the flu!

Now, a cold is a germ, and a flu is a virus. I have had a head cold, but never the seasonal flu with its weeks-long aches and pains, sneezing and coughing, and feeling like death warmed over week after week. When I have had a cold, its symptoms have usually been milder, and of shorter duration.

When the H1N1 virus scared people early in this decade, everyone rushed out and lined up to get the flu shot. Deaths and hospitalizations fell sharply. Check out the data from the Public Health Agency of Canada on flu-related hospitalizations and deaths. You can plainly see from the graphs showing that both deaths and hospitalizations for flu-related causes dropped sharply in the years after the H1N1 scare, that the flu shot works. Just as soon as the H1N1 scare abated, and people shrugged off the need to be vaccinated against the seasonal flu, both deaths and hospitalizations shot right back to their historical levels.

Speaking in the Ontario Legislature, I urged folks to get their flu shot each and every year. Flu-related causes are the main driver in the surge of admissions to our hospitals during the January to March peak flu period.

Let’s understand the facts:

  1. The flu shot is absolutely free, and easily available from your doctor or at many pharmacies and clinics;
  2. The flu shot works. If you take it, you are extremely unlikely to ever get the seasonal flu. Depending on the cold germ, most people even find colds to be milder if they have had the flu shot;
  3. Not taking the flu shot makes you much more likely to be laid out for a week or more with a flu virus that is almost completely preventable;
  4. The flu vaccine is made from eggs, and it is made in Canada. It’s safe, and it sure beats having the flu. You need it every year, and the flu virus ‘signature’ is locked down in February of each year to keep the flu viruses against which you are being vaccinated current.

Go to your pharmacist. Most offer the flu shot on the spot with scarcely any waiting. See your doctor. Get the flu shot at a work or community clinic. However you get it, don’t let autumn go by without getting the flu shot. It matters.