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Get your flu shot

authorelisabeth shmueller | contributor 


jeremy davis

Now that the cold weather is once again upon us, it is that time of year when it seems everyone is sick. In most cases, the frequent sneezing, coughing and nose-blowing is part of the common cold, but it can also be the beginning of the flu.  

While the flu is considered the reason for a rough week, or just an excuse to miss school or work, it is actually much more serious than people realize. Its usual symptoms, which include a sore throat, coughing, fever, chills, loss of appetite, weakness, and vomiting can differ widely depending on who is affected and how strong their immune system is. People with a strong immune system are often able to recover within a couple days, a week at  most. However, for people who are medically weaker, or currently susceptible to disease, getting the flu could potentially lead to hospitalization or even death.  

Last year, an estimated 3500 people in Canada died from the flu and roughly 302 of those individuals were from Saskatchewan. Despite our efforts to do what we can to stay healthy, it is inevitable that we will get sick at some point during this winter season. However, getting a flu shot is the best way to lessen our chances of being hit hard by the flu virus. 

Last year, 360,000 people in Saskatchewan received their flu shot. This
may seem like a lot, but it is actually rather low – only 26 per cent of the total population of our province. Although the amount of people who receive a flu shot rises every year, there are still many who don’t get one. Every year, I always hear people say that either they won’t be getting one or they aren’t sure, and their reasons are usually the same: “I don’t need one.” “I’ll be fine.” “I am too busy.” “What about the side effects?” “I don’t want to risk it.” “The flu doesn’t seem too bad.”   

However, these are all horrible excuses. While you may not think you need one, it is not for your own benefit, but also the benefit of others, that you get vaccinated. It is better to get a shot than risk getting yourself, or someone else, really sick this winter. Additionally, side effects are not something you should worry about, because the flu shot is a safe vaccine administered by qualified
health professionals; it is highly unlikely that you will have a
reaction. I have gotten a flu shot every year since I was little and I have
always been okay. The only thing I have experienced is a bit of arm
soreness, but that doesn’t last very long. Unless you are under six
months, or are allergic, I strongly believe getting a flu shot should be
a major priority for everyone this winter for three main reasons: 

Firstly, it is free. In the past, people had to pay around $25 for a flu
shot, except for people who were high risk, such as those individuals
with asthma or a heart condition. However, this changed a couple of
years ago when flu shots became publicly funded. Now, financial concerns
are no longer a roadblock for getting the flu vaccine. 

Secondly, it is convenient. As Dr. Saqib Sahab, the Saskatchewan chief medical health officer has said, “It’s never been easier to get the flu vaccine,” and I have to agree. Out of 380 pharmacists within our province, 340 of them offer the flu shot, as well as twenty-four walk-in clinics throughout the city, including at the University of Regina and the Regina Performing Arts Centre. No matter where you go, there is a good chance that you will be near somewhere that is giving out the flu shot. Additionally, while some of these places schedule an appointment, the majority of them also do walk-ins. 

Lastly, the shot is a great source of protection not just for the individual who receives it, but for others as well. Some people may think that there is no point for them to get a flu shot because they are healthy and have a strong immune system, but that is not true. Getting a flu shot is not a waste of time because even though you may be able to recover from the flu, there is still a high potential that you will pass it on to someone else, and they may not be as strong as you. Unfortunately, if these people get the flu, they will have a much worse experience and may not have a strong enough immune system to fully
recover. 

This year’s flu vaccine provides protection against four main strains,
which the world health organization has predicted will likely be circulating this winter. On Oct. 22, the flu vaccine became available, and it will remain until Dec. 18. Although it may seem that you still have a long time, it will pass by quickly, and the sooner you get one, the longer you and everyone else will be protected from the flu.  

According to health experts, it takes about two to three weeks after an individual receives the vaccine for them to be considered completely immune to the virus. I would encourage everyone who is able to get a flu shot as soon as possible, not just for themselves, but also for everyone else. I know that we have busy schedules, but getting a flu shot is something people need to make time for. Getting a shot is not the most enjoyable way to spend your time, but in my opinion, in order to be as healthy as possible this winter and avoid getting other people sick, one quick prick is definitely worth it. 

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