The 3rd reason to get the flu shot: H1N1 herd immunity

As lineups at our flu clinics get longer, experts say there's more than one reason to get vaccinated.

Shots protect you and those around you from getting sick, but could also stop virus from mutating

As lineups at our flu clinics get longer, experts say there's more than one reason to get vaccinated. 3:15

As lineups at our flu clinics get longer, experts say there's more than one reason to get vaccinated.

Most people get the shot to protect themselves and others, but University of Calgary microbiologist Glen Armstrong says there's another benefit.

University of Calgary microbiologist Glen Armstrong said if 80 to 85 per cent of a population gets a vaccine it can result in a virus being unable to mutate because it doesn't have the population to do so. (CBC)

"Robbing the virus of a reservoir in which it can change its characteristics and maybe become more deadly is a third reason that maybe a lot of people are less aware of."

He says viruses, like H1N1, can change and become more deadly over time, but they need a human host to do that.

“By getting vaccinated and getting as many people in the population to that herd immunity level of vaccination, what we're doing is we're actually robbing the virus of a reservoir in which it can change its pathogenic properties.”

Critical mass

So far 23 per cent of Albertans have been vaccinated — but to get that "herd immunity"  Armstrong says that number needs to be at least 80 to  85 per cent.

Armstrong says because H1N1 is relatively new — and scientists still don't know everything about how it grows and who is most at risk — it’s even more important to stop the virus from changing now.

Ted Kaye and his daughter went to get the flu shot Monday at Brentwood Medical Clinic. (CBC)

For her part, Calgarian Nicole Maseja waited in long lines at the Brentwood Medical Clinic to get her flu shot Tuesday.

Maseja said it would have been smart to get the shot back in October, but she didn't think there was was much of an outbreak then. 

"Now there's all the reports of people in the hospital because of it [H1N1] of it and people that have passed away from it,” said Maseja.

“They're really urging the public to get the shot now.”

Ted Kaye was also in line Tuesday with his daughter to get the shot. He said the virus has been in the news so much, he just wanted to get it taken care of. 

"Just went back to school on Monday, so again, more exposure," said Kaye. 

With files from Jen Lee/CBC

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