Four in ten (37 per cent) Albertans say they won’t get vaccinated for influenza this year – the majority of them citing common misconceptions about the vaccine to explain why.
One third (34 per cent) of those who don’t plan to get the flu shot say it’s because they are healthy and do not need a flu shot. Other misconceptions among this group include the belief that it is ineffective or that it only works for previous strains of the virus (31 per cent), or that it can have negative side effects (21 per cent).
One in five (21 per cent) say they just tend to forget or don’t get around to it.
“Unfortunately, many Albertans might not get a flu shot this year due to misconceptions about the severity of the flu, the benefits of receiving a flu shot, and concerns about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines. The reality is that the flu shot is safe and it is the most effective tool we have in protecting against the flu, preventing its spread and ultimately it saves lives,” says Gianni Del Negro, pharmacist at London Drugs.
While there are lingering misconceptions about the flu shot, eight in ten (78 per cent) Albertans surveyed say they recognize the importance of getting one every year to help protect those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness – like babies, young children, the elderly and people with certain health conditions. Nearly nine in ten (85 per cent) say that they are aware that the flu vaccine helps prevent hospitalizations and save lives.
“Flu shots are especially important for the elderly and young children, who are more susceptible to flu-related complications that can lead to serious health problems or death. Even healthy individuals should get a flu shot because the higher the rate of vaccination, the greater the protection for the most vulnerable individuals,” explains Del Negro.
Despite the reluctance of some, pharmacists are hoping that more Alberta adults will become convinced that getting a flu shot is a good idea. About six per cent of Albertans who have never had a flu shot said they plan on getting one this year.
“Skepticism sometimes declines following a year where the vaccine is a good match. Last year’s vaccine provided good protection against the circulating strains so the awful flu seasons experienced over the last few years may have a silver lining: flu vaccine uptake,” says Del Negro.
Nearly all (99 per cent) of those who got a flu shot last year plan to get one this season, according to the survey.
As in previous years, the standard-dose, which most people receive, typically includes immunization against both the H1N1 and H3N2 influenza A virus strains and either one or two influenza B viruses. The Fluzone High-Dose, which is recommended for people over 65, provides immunization against H1N1 and H3N2 influenza A as well as an influenza B.
Pharmacists at London Drugs are preparing for what could be a difficult flu season due to potential vaccine delays coupled with the early start and large number of flu cases in Australia, which is often an indicator of the severity of flu in Canada.