5 flu shot questions and answers
Many people in Saskatchewan are following the news about the flu and the availability of vaccination clinics.
On Monday, CBC Radio host Garth Materie opened the phone lines on Blue Sky for people to ask questions of an expert in the field.
Dr. Jeff Kwong is a Toronto family physician and scientist with the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and Public Health in Ontario.
Here are some of the questions and a summary of his answers. Listen to the full episode here.
- Should I get a shot?
- The best protection against flu is vaccination, Dr. Kwong said. He added that although the flu shot is not perfect (in that it will not guarantee protection against flu), he still considers it the best defence available. "It's safer to get the vaccine than to not get the vaccine," Dr. Kwong said. He also noted that good hygiene, especially hand washing, is a worthwhile practice.
- What strains of flu are covered by the shot?
- There are three strains included in the vaccine: H1N1, H3N2 and Influenza B.
- What about the make-up of the vaccine?
- Vaccines include a preservative called Thimerosal, a derivative of mercury, which is being phased out. However Dr. Kwong says current information is that the preservative has not been linked to any problems. "We study the safety of influenza vaccines," he said. "The most frequent side effect is soreness of the arm."
- Is it too late to get a shot?
- Immunization takes about two weeks, so it is still worthwhile. Normally shots are done from November to December. Even after a peak of flu season, activity continues for another eight weeks or so. Also, even if you have been sick and think you have a natural immunity, you may not have had the flu.
- Why don't we have programs to immunize youngsters in daycares and pre-school?
- Dr. Kwong said he thinks it would be a good idea to have such a program, but believes it may be too labour-intensive to provide coverage for so many places. "I think mostly its a resource issue," he said. "With children so young, the parents probably want to be there so there are some logistical issues."