5 Reasons Not to Forget about Your Flu Shot This Season

Girl holding 5 fingers up

Are you tired of hearing about COVID vaccines? I’m not, but I work in public health, so that’s hardly surprising. But I have some good news for anyone who doesn’t want to talk about COVID-19 vaccines, shots, jabs, etc.: I’m here to talk about flu vaccines, shots, jabs, etc.

Yes, it’s time to revisit the classic influenza vaccine. Every year a new flu vaccine appears, and every year only about 40% of Canadians 12 years and over get their flu shot. Or at least that’s how many did in 2020-21. There are many different reasons why people don’t get immunized. For me, it was usually because I would forget to go every week until the flu season finally ended. However, this year I remembered, and I had five reasons for doing so:

Reason 1: I don’t usually get that sick from the flu… and I want to keep it that way.

All things considered, I’m fairly healthy. I could eat more vegetables, but I don’t have chronic illnesses and I’m relatively young. It’s not shocking that my encounters with the flu haven’t been very serious. As the Canadian Paediatric Society says, “Most healthy people recover from the flu without any serious problems.” Emphasis on most. Considering that the more serious complications can include pneumonia, heart attacks, and death, I would like to boost those odds. The flu vaccine, which is proven to reduce the number of doctor visits, hospitalizations, and deaths related to the flu, does just that.

Reason 2: There are a lot of people I care about who ARE at higher risk from the flu.

Besides protecting myself, the flu vaccine also helps protect the people around me. It’s simple: if I’m less likely to get the flu, then I’m less likely to pass it on to others. I’m surrounded by people who are at higher risk of serious complications from the flu than I am: my 71-year-old father, who is a cancer survivor. My nephew, who is just over a year old. My co-worker who is expecting a baby. I decided to get my flu shot to reduce my risk of unintentionally making any of them sick.

Reason 3: The flu shot won’t protect me from COVID-19, but it can help protect our health care system.

Our flu season has started earlier and we’re seeing more cases than normal. The health care system is struggling to keep pace, especially for the youngest patients. With COVID-19 and RSV also circulating and our health care system stretched to capacity, the flu shot just made sense. If the vaccine stops me from getting the flu or getting seriously ill, that means more health care resources for things like broken arms, sick kids, and people with bad COVID-19 infections.

Reason 4: The flu vaccine WON’T give me the flu.

The flu vaccines provided in Ontario this year are all inactivated vaccines. That means the virus proteins are dead. Donezo. Deceased. Dead virus proteins can’t replicate, so they can’t give me the flu. I was confident getting my shot knowing there was no way it could make me sick… though it did give me a slightly sore arm. Many people also briefly experience flu-like symptoms, such as chills and a headache, after getting vaccinated. However, these are normal side effects, generally last about 24 hours, and they’re a good sign that your immune system is responding to the vaccine and building protective antibodies!

Reason 5: It was really easy to get vaccinated.

I have a bit of an advantage here; my job had a clinic right in the workplace. However, even if you don’t work with several nurses, it’s still easy to get your flu shot. Many health care providers are prepared to give the flu vaccine to their patients (just call yours and ask), it is widely available at pharmacies, and public clinics are being organized across the TBDHU area.

In fact, to further increase access to the flu vaccine, all TBDHU COVID Vaccine Clinics in Thunder Bay are now offering the flu vaccine to anyone 6 months and older on a walk-in basis. If you need your COVID-19 booster as well, you can even get both at the same time! Additional details about how and where to get vaccinated are shared on the TBDHU website.

My apologies for sneaking the COVID-19 vaccine back in there. I hope you can forgive me… and I hope that one or two of these reasons will help you make a date to get the flu shot this year.