Brandy-Lee Maxie, who recently moved to Regina from a reserve, says she's been under a lot of stress and anxiety this flu season — and it's all around whether or not to get the flu shot.
In 2009, Maxie got the H1N1 strain of the flu and became ill. This year, when she heard H1N1 was back and this shot might protect against it, she started to research whether or not she should get the shot.
Going online for flu shot advice and information?
Here are some things to consider:
1. Who manages this information?
The person or group that has published health information online should be identified on the website.
2. Who is paying for the project?
You should be able to find this in the "About Us" section.
3. What is the original source of the online information?
If the information was originally published in another source such as a research journal or a book, it should be identified so you can find the original source.
4. How is information reviewed before it gets posted?
Most health information publications have someone with medical or research credentials (for example, someone who has earned an MD, DO, or PhD) review the information before it gets posted, to make sure it is correct. This information should be noted on the website.
5. How current is the information?
Online health information sources should display a date when the information was posted or last reviewed.
The more she heard about H1N1 and the number of cases of people getting it, the more nervous she got.
"It's a big challenge. It's huge," Maxie said about making the decision to vaccinate.
'People are like, 'Uh, what's in that shot?' So they're questioning it for sure.' - Brandy-Lee Maxie says skepticism exists about government flu shot programs
"At one point, I panicked enough to race to the doctor and try and get the flu shot for all of us, and we got rejected because we all had bronchitis."
Over a month, Maxie went online, talked to family members and asked her doctor.
In the end, the doctor did not push for Maxie to get the shot. Since most people in her family said they were against the shot, and those who take care of her kids when she's at work felt the same way, she decided not to vaccinate herself or her kids.
"I'm still debating whether or not I made the right decision," she said.
Maxie says this is not only a debate in her family. She's seen a lot of discussion online, in aboriginal families and circles, about whether or not to get the flu shot.
Because of the history of residential schools and other issues, many First Nations and Métis people distrust the government, she said.
When public agencies make the vaccine available on reserve and promote it in these communities, it raises red flags.
"At one point, they were prioritizing First Nations," Maxie said.
"There's trust issues between First Nations and the government and when they say we're going to prioritize, we want to keep you healthy, people are like, 'Uh, what's in that shot?' So they're questioning it for sure."
At the Four Directions Health Centre in Regina's inner city many clients are aboriginal. The centre held a flu vaccine blitz in the fall.
Tina Leon, the nursing supervisor at the centre, says some people did come in with questions about the vaccine, after reading alarming things online.
She says trust can be an issue with anyone coming into a centre. But the key is to find a health professional you trust.
"Very challenging," says Tina Leon. "So if there is that trusting relationship [it's] more likely that they will be able to listen to that suggestion that you pass on to them."
Maxie says for now she is using natural home remedies like Vitamin C, and using onions in bowls to absorb germs.
She's also made sure her kids know how to properly wash their hands, and keep their hands away from their mouths.
She'd also like to see more information before the next seasonal shot comes around, including a complete list of ingredients in the shot offered in Saskatchewan and what each ingredient is for or can do.
Confused about the Flu Shot? Fluviral (R) is one of the flu vaccines used in Saskatchewan. Andrew Potter, a vaccine researcher with more than 30 years experience, explains what's in the vaccine, and why each ingredient is considered safe.
(In the interactive below, roll your cursor over each section for more detailed information.)
A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus, A/Victoria/361/2011-like virus, B/Massachusetts/2/2012-like virus
sodium chloride, potassium chloride, disodium hydrogen phosphate heptahydrate, potassium dihydrogen phosphate and water
egg proteins, formaldehyde, sodium deoxycholate
Andrew Potter has been a vaccine researcher for more than 30 years. He is the CEO of The Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-Intervac). The Centre is headquartered at the University of Saskatchewan. You can visit their website here www.vido.org
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