AT RANDOM: Bugs and drugs

For the anti-immunization crowd, some perspective on the importance of the flu shot

The Public Health Agency of Canada states that every year, between 2,000 and 8,000 Canadians die of the flu and its complications.

But it’s believed those numbers are more or less pulled from the air. There are actually no concrete numbers on the number of people who die annually from influenza. Autopsies are rarely done, and the numbers are more of a scientific guess.

But the fact is, flu season is here and everyone is at risk.

Actually, us westerners apparently have a jump on the flu season compared to those in the east. Due to cool temperatures and low humidity in the fall, the flu circulates up to five weeks earlier in B.C. and Alberta. I have already heard of a few North Okanagan individuals who have caught the flu virus. Considering that it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to become effective – the sooner the better.

There are certain individuals who are more at risk of developing complications from a flu virus, but the reality is everyone is at risk.

The problem is that those who are at increased risk can’t even protect themselves due to the increasing number of anti-vaccine individuals and groups.

There are more and more online reports these days about vaccines (whether it’s a flu shot or childhood immunizations) causing long-term health consequences. While they may happen, I personally believe they are rare and like the bad-apple scenario, individual cases are being blown out of proportion and ruining the program for all.

I’m not debunking the claims but I know that vaccines are effective for the majority of us and the risk of such rare side-effects is minimal compared to the risk of the disease or virus.

Then there are concerns, and some evidence, that the flu shot doesn’t even work.

Unlike some childhood vaccinations, which offer a lifetime of protection, flu shots expire annually. Even then, they do not offer complete protection. Some research suggests the shot cuts the risk of disease only by half.

The reason for that is flu viruses are constantly changing and its obviously difficult to predict what strains will come about and what cocktail will immunize against them.

But since the shot isn’t guaranteed, there are always complaints from people getting the flu shot but still getting the flu. And perhaps why some people are adverse to the flu shot.

I completely understand the concerns.

But as any mother can relate, kids spread germs worse than wildfire. So having a school or daycare aged child means if any other child (or staff member) has the flu, your kid is almost guaranteed to bring it home. And the wildfire is sparked.

Mom and dad get the flu, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, co-workers. You get the point.

That is why it is constantly stressed that if you are sick, STAY HOME!

But also consider this: your child is recovering from a bad virus or appears to have some initial symptoms but you shrug it off thinking they are fine.

Meanwhile, your child shares some of their germs with another child. That child brings the virus home, and perhaps they have been vaccinated so they don’t catch the flu. But the germs brought home are spread to mom and dad (it is possible to spread a virus even if you have been immunized). So while the parents are down with the flu, grandma steps in to help out with the little one and, you guessed it, grandma gets the flu.

The major concern here is that grandma has a weakened immune system from a disease –her underlying condition meant that she could not get the flu shot. She can not fight the flu as effectively as others, therefore she ends up being hospitalized. That scenario could even lead to death.

For anyone with a loved one who has an underlying condition, this is a frightening reality. And it is exactly why many people get the flu shot. They just wish more people would understand the risks and do the same.

If getting the flu shot is still something you are adamant against, please do your best to protect everyone else. Stay home the minute you feel sick and do not go out in public until you are better. And perhaps one of the most effective ways you can protect yourself and others is by washing your hands, and hands of your little ones.