Officials are projecting a worse flu season than last year judging by the numbers coming out of Australia’s flu season, which happens during our summer months or their winter months. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Everything you need to know before getting the flu shot

Island pharmacist shares concerns, recommendations before flu season hits

Flu season is upon us. Influenza can affect up to millions of people every year in various ways.

The potentially serious disease that can hospitalize people or even cause death in some cases, but can be prevented by the flu shot. Black Press Media chatted with Jennifer Eggen, pharmacist owner at Shoppers Drug Mart Westshore Town Centre, about everything people need to know before getting the vaccine.

Why should people get the flu shot?

Officials are projecting a worse flu season than last year judging by the numbers coming out of Australia’s flu season, which happens during our summer months (their winter months). According to Eggen, in June Australia had 31,220 cases of the flu across the country compared to the 2,000 cases in June 2018, adding that was a low estimate because the statistics only show those seeking treatment in the hospital or emergency room.

Who should get the flu shot?

All Canadians are encouraged to get the flu shot. Even if you think you’re healthy, young and don’t get sick often it’s still strongly recommended to get the shot, as it protects those who can’t get the vaccine. Eggen says it’s not so much about protecting the individual, but about protecting those around us such as babies, seniors, pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions.

READ ALSO: B.C. care homes urged to let seniors buy high-dose flu shot

Who shouldn’t get the flu shot?

People who have had serious reactions to the vaccine in the past or people who are allergic to a component in the flu shot. Eggen recommends talking to your doctor before making the final decision, as almost everyone can get the shot.

When should you get the flu shot?

Basically, now is the best time says Eggen. Flu season generally starts in October and continues throughout the year until around April or May. Because the shot takes two weeks to start working, Eggen recommends getting the shot before the worst of the season hits.

How long is the vaccine good for?

If you’re thinking — well I got it last year so I don’t need one this year, think again. People’s antibodies wane over time and vaccine strains change year after year so it’s best to get it once a year. The vaccine also only lasts about a year, adding to the reasons why you should get the shot yearly.

READ ALSO: B.C. flu vaccine delivery delayed, not expected to affect vaccinations

How effective is the flu shot?

Eggen says while it’s not an exact science, their best guess is the vaccine reduces the risk of infection by a dominating flu strain by 70 per cent — meaning you could still get sick from non-dominant strain. So even if it’s not spot on, the vaccine will still reduce a person’s overall risk of getting the flu says Eggen.

Should you get the flu shot if you’re sick?

If you’ve got a cold or a different virus, Eggen recommends waiting until you’ve fully recovered to get your flu shot. If your body is fighting something and you get the vaccine your body can be overwhelmed and it won’t provide the proper protection.

Can you get sick from the flu shot?

No. It’s a completely inactive virus, so there’s no chance it can cause you to get sick.

Does the flu shot have side effects?

Some. Eggen says side effects are mild and infrequent, usually consisting of a bit of local pain at the site of the injection, redness, possible swelling. A general feeling of un-wellness is another side effect but is uncommon.

Can you get the nasal spray instead of the injection?

No, for the 2019-2020 flu season, the nasal spray will not be available in British Columbia.

Are flu shots free?

Flu shots are free if you meet a certain requirement, luckily almost everyone meets the criteria. Those who don’t qualify will be from out of province or from the United States and will pay about $25 to get the shot.



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