The flu shot – what it’s all about

Lieutenant Brian Plinke of Canadian Forces Health Services (Pacific) gives a Flu shot to Base Commander, Captain (Navy) Jason Boyd in his office at Naden. This year’s vaccine was made available to military members on Oct. 1. Flu shots are not mandatory but highly encouraged for all members of the military. For further information about three upcoming clinics on Oct 15, 22, and 29 or about drop-in appointments at the base immunization clinic follow CFB Esquimalt’s base intranet splash pages or call 250-363-4140. Photo by Peter Mallett, Lookout

Lieutenant Brian Plinke of Canadian Forces Health Services (Pacific) gives a Flu shot to Base Commander, Captain (Navy) Jason Boyd in his office at Naden. This year’s vaccine was made available to military members on Oct. 1. Flu shots are not mandatory but highly encouraged for all members of the military. For further information about three upcoming clinics on Oct 15, 22, and 29 or about drop-in appointments at the base immunization clinic follow CFB Esquimalt’s base intranet splash pages or call 250-363-4140. Photo by Peter Mallett, Lookout

Canadian Forces Health Services Centre (Pacific) has started to give the flu shot to its members to help them stay healthy this winter. It’s important when deciding whether to get the flu shot that you have the right information about the flu and the vaccine. There are many misconceptions about influenza and the flu vaccine, and these misconceptions can lead to a decrease in the number of people who are vaccinated.

Influenza is a respiratory illness caused by the Influenza A and B viruses. This virus usually appears in the late fall and early winter when cold temperatures allow the virus to spread more easily. The flu most commonly causes a sudden high fever, chills, sore throat and cough.

The flu can lead to more severe respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia. This is particularly dangerous in the very young and very old, the chronically sick and pregnant women as their immune systems are not as good at protecting them from disease even after they have been vaccinated. Approximately 10 to 20 per cent of Canadians will get the flu each season, about 12,200 will be hospitalized and 3500 will die.

The influenza virus is constantly mutating which means that people need to be vaccinated each year. The flu vaccine is formulated using data on flu viruses that circulated around the world in the previous year.

The flu vaccine formulation for the 2018/2019 season was chosen in February of this year. It protects against two A strains including H1N1 and one or two B strains.

It is possible to be infected with the flu and have no symptoms, which means you can spread it without even knowing. When more people are vaccinated, it reduces the rate of flu in the entire population; therefore, less vulnerable people are exposed and infected. Getting the flu vaccine protects you and everyone else in your community. This contributes to maintaining the health of our military personnel and the overall effectiveness of the organization.

So why should you get the flu vaccine? The most obvious answer is so that you don’t get the flu or spread the influenza virus to other members of your family. No one likes being sick, so why not do what you can to stay healthy? The flu vaccine is not perfect. But it is proven to reduce the likelihood you will get the flu and even other flu-like illnesses.

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