Every winter, thousands of Canadians are put in the hospital and hundreds die because of the flu. Yet over half of Canadians do not get the flu shot. Eschia.

The flu shot is free and it is available every year to help protect us from catching the flu. I checked into whether it’s safe or not. Government websites are unanimous that it’s safe to get the flu shot, although some people shouldn’t get it.

People who should not get a shot include children younger than six months and people who have had a severe reaction to the flu shot or any of its ingredients.

Many people say that we can get the flu from the flu shot, but the medical profession says the flu shot is made from an inactivate form of the flu virus, which means that it can’t cause infection. Woohoo!

The following are some of the benefits and risks of the flu shot. Read very carefully eh, lol.

Health minister Glen Abernethy shares a laugh with Laura Mallory as he gets prepped to receive his annual flu shot at Northern United Place.
Dylan Short/NNSL photo

Benefits of the flu shot

First, medical sources say getting the flu shot is the best way to keep from catching the flu. Recent studies show that it reduces the risk of getting the flu by 40 to 60 per cent to among the overall population. Sounds good, eh?

Second, if you do catch the flu, your symptoms may be milder if you got vaccinated. Whoa.
Third, getting the flu shot has been shown to lead to lower rates of flu-related complications or hospitalizations for children younger than five and especially if they are younger than two; adults who are at least 65; women who are pregnant or up to two weeks postpartum; and people with chronic medical conditions like diabetes, lung disease, and heart disease.

Fourth, when you get a flu shot to protect yourself from the flu, you’re also protecting those who can’t get a shot. This includes those who are too young to get vaccinated. Oh ya.

Risks of the flu shot

Sometimes you can get the flu shot and still catch the flu. Say what? Yup, it takes two weeks after getting the flu shot for our bodies to develop immunity and we can still catch the flu during this two-week period.

We can also still get the flu if there wasn’t a good “vaccine match.” Huh? You’re thinking, “What the heck is a good vaccine match?” Right?

Well, researchers need to decide what strains of flu to include in the vaccine before flu season starts. The flu shot is not as effective when there’s a poor match between the strains included in the vaccine and the strains that circulate during flu season. Not cool, dude.

Some people may have a negative reaction to the flu shot, and symptoms usually occur within minutes to hours after receiving the vaccine. So the nurse will not let you leave for fifteen minutes.

Symptoms may include difficulty breathing, wheezing, rapid heartbeat, rash or hives, swelling around the eyes and mouth, and feeling weak or dizzy. Whoa.

If you have these symptoms after getting the flu shot, see your doctor. And go to the emergency room if the reaction is a bad one.

On rare occasions, the flu shot can trigger Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which is a rare condition where your immune system begins to attack your peripheral nerves. As Mary would say, “Shut the front door.”

Luckily, it appears you are more likely to get Guillain-Barre Syndrome from the flu than from the flu shot. The chance of getting this rare illness from the flu shot is one in a million. Gotta wonder about those odds!

If you’ve already had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, speak to your doctor before getting vaccinated.

Last year there were 3,657 reported hospitalizations with 223 confirmed deaths from the flu, and over 40,000 reported cases of the flu. But, tons of people had the flu and did not report it. Were you one of those people? I know I didn’t report it last time I caught the flu.

So, there you have it. If you decide it’s worth it, go get a flu shot. If not, find out about the treatment options for the flu.

Roy Erasmus

Roy Erasmus Sr. Is a certified wellness counsellor who survived heart disease and a former member of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories.

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