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The most effective way of protecting yourself from the flu is by getting the flu shot each year. A new vaccine is developed annually based on the three strains of influenza which are predicted to be the most prevalent that year. The vaccine works by introducing a small amount of inactivated influenza virus into our body allowing our immune system to build an army of antibodies to the virus. If we are then exposed to the live virus, our immune system sends the antibodies to “attack” the foreign invader, preventing an infection from developing.
Unfortunately, sometimes the unexpected happens, as was the case this flu season. The influenza strain that ended up being the most widespread this year was not one of the three strains contained in the vaccine, so there were many cases of people getting sick – even those who did get vaccinated. Naturally, people are concerned about the effectiveness of the flu shot and have doubts about whether they should get the vaccine again.

Here are some points to consider when making your decision to get immunized next flu season:

1. Extensive research is done each year to make the decision about which three strains will be included in the vaccine. Generally, the predictions are very accurate and the vaccine prevents many thousands of people from becoming ill each year. However, we need to remember that the annual flu vaccine does not protect against all strains of the influenza virus, so there is a chance that someone could become infected with another strain.

2. We need to understand that what happened this year was unusual. This season, the virus essentially ‘outsmarted’ us. It was determined that the main viral strain mutated, leaving the vaccine less effective than expected. This mutation meant that the virus changed in such a way that the antibodies our immune system had developed after receiving the vaccine, were not able to mount a very effective response to infection by the live virus.

3. The flu vaccine CANNOT give you the flu. The components of the vaccine are inactivated influenza viral particles – meaning only pieces of the killed virus are present and are not able to cause infection.

4. Immunity from the flu shot is not immediate. It takes about 14 days for our immune system to develop antibodies to the strains contained in the vaccine. During this lag period, it is possible to develop an infection if contact with the virus occurs during the first two weeks after vaccination.

5. It is recommended that everyone over the age of 6 months be immunized each year. Not only can it protect you from becoming very sick, but it can help to protect those around you, by reducing the spread of the virus. Furthermore, if you do come down with the flu after receiving the vaccination, the infection will likely be less severe and may not last as long.

6. Vaccines – including the flu vaccine – do NOT cause developmental disorders like autism. People have become very concerned with the idea that thimerosal (a preservative used in some vaccines) is linked to the development of autism in children, but there is no evidence of this being true. However, there are flu vaccines available that do not contain thimerosal if you still have concerns.

6. It is beneficial to get the flu shot at any point during flu season; not only at the beginning. Also, it is a good idea to get vaccinated even if you have already had the flu that season as the infection may have been caused by a different strain.

Although the flu vaccine is the most important form of protection from the flu virus, people must remember that hand hygiene is also a key component to preventing the spread of infection. Washing hands thoroughly and often, using hand sanitizer when washing is not possible, and staying home if you have flu-like symptoms to avoid spreading the virus to others.
Influenza can be a serious illness for many people, especially children, the elderly and those who are immunocompromised, but the flu vaccine is important for everyone. It helps to protect yourself and those around you from potentially becoming very ill. If you have more questions about the flu vaccine, please talk to your pharmacist.

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The practice of using vaccines to protect from infectious diseases goes back to the year 1000 AD. People have been researching, discovering, and improving vaccines for over one thousand years since then. During this time mankind has experienced many – often lethal – infections: small pox, diphtheria, tetanus, anthrax, cholera, plague, typhoid and tuberculosis to name a few. Fortunately, through the use of vaccines and antitoxins, many of these are no longer existent and those that have not been eradicated are under better control than ever.

There has, however, been considerable debate over the idea of vaccination. Many people are still not convinced that vaccines are a good idea despite the fact that every healthcare professional would agree that they are. There are very few risks associated with vaccinations and the side effects are generally mild. They may include:

  • Fatigue

  • Pain, redness, tenderness or swelling at injection site

  • Headache

  • Itching at injection site

  • Nausea

  • Dizziness or fainting (most common in adolescents)

  • Fever

  • Mild rash

More serious side effects from a vaccine may result from an allergy, but these are very rare (less than one in one million doses given). The important message is that there are far greater benefits to immunization than there are risks.

One of the most talked about vaccines in autumn is the flu vaccine. As we approach winter, it is time to prepare ourselves for Flu Season. What better way to prepare than to get the flu shot and prevent getting the flu in the first place? It is generally recommended that everyone over the age of 6 months get the flu shot. It is especially important for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, people who work directly with the community, people who are at high risk of flu-related complications or hospitalization, and people with certain chronic health conditions. If you have questions or concerns about whether the flu shot is right for you, please speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

Trained pharmacists are now holding flu clinics in some pharmacies to increase awareness about the importance of getting immunized and provide greater ease of access to the flu shot for community members. This year the flu shot will be offered free of charge at each of the Boggio Family of Pharmacies locations. Come by one of our pharmacies to get your flu shot in a clean, comfortable, convenient setting.

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