Flu shots advised, but mind the side effects

Courtney Dickson, Wellness Columnist Ω

Courtney Dickson, Arts & Entertainment Editor Ω

Courtney Dickson, Wellness Columnist Ω

The cold and flu season seems to be upon us and we’re about to be bombarded with ads for the flu vaccine. Vaccinations in general have always been surrounded by some controversy and some choose not to vaccinate themselves or their families.

The flu really seems to kick our butts. The fever, aches and pains, fatigue, dry cough and sore throat make you wonder if waiting in line to get the flu shot may actually be worth it.

According to Immunize BC, vaccines contain antigens, an inactive substance associated with the targeted virus or disease. Our bodies think these antigens are the targeted disease and start creating antibodies to get rid of a virus the body doesn’t actually have. The idea is that these antibodies will defend the body against the disease if and when it does decide to attack.

Sometimes side effects of the flu vaccine mirror the actual symptoms of the virus. Headaches, exhaustion, fever and sore muscles as well as general vaccine side effects like redness and swelling at the injection site are all possible post-vaccine.

The HealthLink BC website clarifies things further, saying “The inactivated influenza vaccine cannot give you influenza because it contains killed influenza viruses that cannot cause infection.”

TRU nursing professor Mona Taylor says the flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and others against the virus.

According to Taylor, it’s important for students to get vaccinated, particularly if they fall into any of the high-risk categories.

Some people are at a higher risk of catching influenza, due to work or living environments or medical conditions, and can receive the vaccine for free. HealthLink BC provides a full list of people who are high-risk, but those on the list students should be aware of include aboriginal people, care providers and those suffering from immuno-deficiencies or chronic health issues.

It is also recommended that flu shots are received annually. Because influenza strains are always mutating the vaccine has to change along with them.

Though health professionals generally recommend the flu shot, some are completely against all vaccines.

Actress and autism activist Jenny McCarthy is one of the loudest anti-vaccine campaigners. McCarthy believes, contrary to a number of scientific studies investigating the matter, that vaccines caused her son’s autism. When it was announced the McCarthy would become the newest cast member of popular daytime talk show The View, Canadian health experts were so worried about McCarthy spreading her beliefs that in July 2013, they asked The View to reconsider their decision to hire her. They were worried that the added spotlight would provide her with a platform to spread her beliefs that health professionals do not agree with.

There is often talk of the flu being fatal in order to encourage Canadians to get the flu shot. An article released by CBC in November 2012 found that statements about deaths caused by influenza are often assumptions, and a Statistics Canada report said that only 300 deaths per year, from 2000 to 2008 were recorded as being caused by influenza. When the CBC story was published, only one death had been officially recorded in 2012 as a result of influenza.

I’m not trying to sway anyone one way or the other to get the flu shot, as I fall into a high-risk category and every year I struggle with whether or not I should get vaccinated against influenza. I just want to make this knowledge available to those who are also uncertain to try to make the decision a little better informed