So you may be confused about what is going on with flu shots this year. Although the provinces handle flu vaccine plans seperately, it’s unusual to see a big difference in approaches across the country. Availability of H1N1 vaccine as compared to the seasonal flu vaccine, in addition to a recent study have thrown everything out of wack.
You’ve probably already heard about this study that shows that receiving the seasonal flu vaccine may make you more susceptible to contracting swine flu. Different provinces have reacted differently to the unpublished study. Now, this study has not been reproduced or sufficiently peer reviewed yet, so is it reasonable that provinces are reacting? This is a case where if the risk is high enough, waiting for more data could be dangerous. They have to weigh the risk of delaying the vaccine compared to the potential risk in giving it out now. In case you have been avoiding the news and haven’t heard about the study, it reportedly shows that people under 50 who get the seasonal flu shot are twice as likely to contract H1N1. This has caused quite a lot of public confusion about how safe the flu shot is.
Each of the provinces has weighed the risks and come up with different plans. Some provinces are delaying seasonal flu shots, except for high risk groups, until H1N1 shots are ready. Others have decided that the risk of delay is to great, and are moving ahead with wide distribution of seasonal flu shots. I can see good reasons for each approach. It’s a tough call to make when lives are potentially on the line, and there is no time to wait for better science.
From my perspective, the biggest risk is that confusion around this issue could lead to people avoiding the flu shot altogether, and this is an outcome that we need to minimize. Please educate yourself about the plan in your province. If you or someone you know is in a risk group, make sure they get vaccinated. When the shots are available to everyone, get one. Remember that even though the flu might not be fatal to you, if you’re not vaccinated you could pass it on to someone at risk. People who are unable to get vaccinated due to immune problems rely on the rest of us to minimize the spread of these strains.
Please check out this link, and from there you can click on your province to find more information about the flu shot plans in your area: Public Health Agency of Canada H1N1 Site