No excuses: Top reasons to get your flu shot

News / General
By Peter Jeffrey

It's that time of year when you start to hear the sniffles, sneezes and coughs around the room. Viruses are on the move in our community again and that means the flu is on the way as well. But there is an easy way to protect yourself, your family and patients at Kingston General Hospital from this dangerous virus and it's by getting a flu shot.

The goal again this year is to improve vaccination rates across KGH. So to help ease people's concerns about the shot, Dr. Gerald Evans, Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control has come up with a list of reasons people decline a flu shot, along with some answers to address each one.

"The influenza vaccine can cause the flu." Simply put this is not true, the vaccine has no live virus in it. People often make the mistake of blaming the shot for a cold or other infection they get after they receive the shot, but it's really just a coincidence.

"I don't get the flu and if I did, I would just stay home to avoid infecting my patients and coworkers." Everyone can get the flu and the vaccine is the best way to be protected from it. The biggest problem we have is that people may incubate and shed the virus a day or two before actually becoming sick. This means they go to work feeling well but they are actually spreading the virus to their colleagues.

"I'm young and healthy so I don't need the flu shot." Young and healthy people who get the flu always feel worse than people who are older. In fact, for some forms of flu the death rate is highest for young and healthy people. It may be because their immune systems are so vigorous, it ends up making them sicker.

"I got the flu shot and I still got sick." The flu shot protects you from influenza but there are many other respiratory viruses out there that can make you ill, such as coronaviruses and rhinoviruses. The illness you get with influenza is much, much worse than the common cold that those viruses cause.

"The vaccine is dangerous and can cause neurological disorders like Guillain-Barre." There was a study published this year that shows the risk of developing Guillain-Barre syndrome is much higher if you are sick with influenza than if you get the vaccine, so if you are worried about this disease you should definitely get the shot.

"The flu shot isn't that effective." It is commonly known that the flu shot is not 100 per cent effective, however, in a healthy population of healthcare workers, the shot will be at least 75 to 80 per cent effective. The vaccine mixture of strains is usually a good match to influenza strains that are circulating that year. But even if it's not a perfect match, it still offers some protection.

"I've got a cold right now." If you have a cold it is best to wait until your symptoms subside before you get the influenza vaccine. But once you feel better you should get a shot to protect yourself from the more severe disease of influenza.

"I have a fear of needles." I've yet to meet the person who likes to have a sharp object stuck in their arm, but it's definitely short-term pain for long-term gain and there are lots of ways to make getting the shot more comfortable for people.

For more information about the influenze vaccination and where you can get a flu shot, check out www.kflapublichealth.ca.

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