After the H1N1 outbreak in 2010, and other flu-related controversies, we have decided to revisit the discussion about flu vaccines to give you the latest information.
What is the flu?
Seasonal influenza, more commonly referred to as the flu, is a respiratory infection that is transmitted through people coughing, sneezing or even talking. Objects can also transmit germs, such as play toys at a daycare.
Flu symptoms include: sore throat, sudden fever, muscle aches and pains and headaches. You can get sick overnight and the symptoms last about a week. Fatigue is also common after battling the flu and it may take a few extra days to recover in order to be completely back in shape.
The flu is rampant from November to August and can also have serious consequences. Every year, 20 000 Canadians will wind up in the hospital due to flu-related complications. 2 000 to 8 000 of cases will be fatal.
Complications are most common in young children, the elderly, and people suffering chronic illnesses such as diabetes, anemia, cancer, HIV…
Vaccines are disseminated for public health reasons: the purpose is to stop the virus from spreading, especially to the elderly, the sick and to children.
The vaccine is composed of an agent that resembles the virus, but is either weakened or already dead, meaning that it can’t give you the flu. It varies year to year, depending on the epidemic, and is based on studies from laboratories around the world, coordinated by the World Health Organization. This is to identify new strains and respond accordingly.
Vaccines are 80% percent effective, and change every year, only protecting against the specific strain. It is thus possible to catch a different virus even if you have already been vaccinated.
Concerns over vaccinations
Flu shots are not recommended for children under 6 months old. For healthy kids over 23 months, vaccines are not obligatory but strongly recommended.
During the H1N1 outbreak, many reports regarding the dangers of the vaccine began to emerge saying they would increase the risk of catching seasonal influenza. Many rumours circulated about this virus particularly in winter 2009.
“The risks associated with the vaccine are very low”, explains Dr Brian Schwartz, Director of Emergency Management Support at Public Health Ontario, “[However] like any medical intervention, drugs or vaccines, there are always some risks.”
For a time, the vaccine scare was being associated with the risk of neurological problems in children, and autism. These claims turned out to be unfounded.
Flu Shot Recommendations
- It is recommended that children between 6-23 months old get their flu shot as they are more prone to developing complications.
- Flu shots are also recommended for pregnant women and aboriginals.
- People that are in regular contact with the public are strongly urged to get their flu shot as they are more susceptible to being infected.
Lastly, the flu and its complications are way more severe than a vaccine, and it is strongly recommended to even vaccinate kids that are in good health.
To learn more, visit: Fight Flu.ca