Infectious diseases continue to dominate the news, with the threat of Ebola currently in the public eye. However, it is also the start of the flu season in Canada and interestingly there is a common solution to both of these issues: vaccination. 

While the Ebola vaccines are still experimental in nature, there are a number of safe and effective influenza vaccines being offered in Saskatchewan for individuals of all ages. 

I am frequently asked by family, friends and members of the public whether it is worth being immunized each year for the flu and the answer is an unqualified "YES"!

The CDC Foundation [an independent agency that supports the work of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States] has estimated that influenza costs the US economy over $87 billion each year in medical costs, lost earnings etc.

In Canada the figure would be about one-tenth of that. For Saskatchewan, with about three per cent of Canada's population, those costs could be estimated at $260 million.

Influenza is also one of the leading infectious disease killers. Yet there is a simple solution to reduce the risk of catching the flu and that is vaccination. 

Vaccine fears

So why are people deciding not to be vaccinated each year? There are those who believe vaccines cause autism and other disorders based on misinformation published over a decade ago by a now discredited physician. Choosing not to be vaccinated puts others at risk including friends, family, co-workers, etc. and it is a very selfish behaviour. 

There are also those who believe in the never-ending list of home remedies on the internet; everything from chicken soup to onions. Some of these might ease symptoms but they are not cures or preventatives and they are certainly not vaccines. 

I find it particularly troubling when people who interact with the public (teachers, health care workers etc.) refuse to be immunized. While I respect that everyone is entitled to their opinion, the benefits of vaccination are proven and those choosing not to be vaccinated are doing a disservice to others.

(Andy Potter is Director/CEO of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization – International Vaccine Centre at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. He has been involved in the development of vaccines and immunization technologies for the past 30 years. He leads the Pan-Provincial Vaccine Enterprise, a not-for-profit company dedicated to developing vaccines for diseases of public health importance.)