Why should people get vaccinated against the flu?
Influenza or the flu is a serious acute condition that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently. Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others. Between 2011 and 2016 there were 25,329 hospitalizations and 1611 patient deaths were reported in Canada. The annual flu vaccine (either the flu shot or the nasal spray vaccine) is the best way to reduce the chances of getting the flu and spreading it to others. When more people get vaccinated against the flu, less flu can spread through that community. In Canada, your risk of getting the flu is higher in the late fall and winter months. The risk is lower during the rest of the year.
How does the flu vaccine work?
Flu vaccines contain molecules and proteins that cause antibodies to develop in the body approximately two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection from the flu virus. Each Season, a new flu vaccine is developed. This season’s flu vaccine will protect against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the season.
As an example:
- 2 influenza A viruses
- 1 or 2 influenza B viruses, depending on the flu vaccine you receive
Who should get vaccinated this season?
Everyone 6 months and older should get the vaccine. This is especially important for people with health conditions, such as: cancer, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease or Obesity. People over the age of 65 and those live in nursing homes and retirement homes should also get vaccinated. Children under 5 years of age and pregnant women should also receive the vaccine.
What are other measures that can be taken to protect against the flu?
In addition to getting the flu vaccine, hand washing, coughing and sneezing in the bend of the arms can reduce the risk of getting and spreading the flu. Eating health foods and doing physical activities can also keep the immune system strong and reduce the chance of infection. If sick, It is important to stay home and avoid contact with other people until symptoms are gone. This will help prevent the spread of the virus.
Where can I get the flu shot?
Health Canada in partnership with the provinces maintain a database of where the flu shot is offered. Most provinces offer the flu shot as part of Canada’s Universal Health Care Program. Find a clinic or pharmacy where you can get the flu vaccine or get information about the flu from your province or territory.
Why do I need a flu vaccine every year?
A flu vaccine is needed every season for two reasons. First, the body’s immune response from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccine is needed for optimal protection. Second, because flu viruses are constantly changing, the formulation of the flu vaccine is reviewed each year and sometimes updated to keep up with changing flu viruses. For the best protection, everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated annually.
Does flu vaccine work right away?
No. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection. That’s why it’s better to get vaccinated early in the fall, before the flu season really gets under way.
What kind of side effects does the vaccine cause?
You can’t get the flu from the vaccine. However, there are, some minor side effects that may occur such as: Soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given, Fever (low grade) and Aches.
How is the flu treated?
Mild flu symptoms can be treated with rest, fluids and over the counter medicines such as Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen to reduce fever and aches. Prescription drugs can be prescribed at the onset of symptoms to reduce the severity of the flu or prescribed to those who are at high risk of catching the flu.
- Flu (Influenza)- Health Canada
- Influenza. Therapeutic Choices. Canadian Pharmacists Association (2016)
- Influenza (Flu)- US Centre of Disease Control and Prevention MedlinePlus. (2016)
This article has been prepared by ASSOCIUM’s associated clinical pharmacy Rx Infinity. Rx Infinity provides optimal and sustainable patient management solutions through customized programs, innovative technology and added value services that improve the overall patient experience; while helping payers and plan sponsors achieve sustainability in the management of drug plans expenditures.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.