Flu shot not popular in Manitoba, survey says 3rd lowest in Canada

Manitobans aren't getting pricked with the flu shot nearly as often as Canadians living in most other provinces, a new survey suggests.

32% of Manitoba respondents in Prairie Research Associates survey got vaccinated in 2015/2016

Only Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador rank behind Manitoba in terms of having the lowest vaccination rates in Canada. (Canadian Press)

Manitobans aren't getting pricked with the flu shot nearly as often as Canadians living in most other provinces, a new survey suggests.

Prairie Research Associates says only 32 per cent of 791 respondents in its recent poll said they had been vaccinated between September 2015 and March 2016.

"That number, relative to Stats Canada, would rank us third last in the entire country," Nicholas Borodenko with PRA said.

That puts Manitoba near the bottom of the pack, with Quebec (24 per cent) and Newfoundland and Labrador (28 per cent) trailing closely behind in last and second-last place nationwide.

Just 15 to 16 per cent of young people (aged 18 to 29, and 30 to 39) said they were vaccinated during the same time frame. Middle age and older respondents got vaccinated at much higher rates. A total of 31 per cent of people between 40 and 64, and 65 per cent of those 65 or older, made the effort to get immunized.

Why not get vaccinated?

When asked to provide a reason why they abstained, the majority (37 per cent) of those who didn't get immunized said they just didn't get around to it, while another 28 per cent said they didn't think it was necessary.

Meanwhile, 18 per cent said they had heard about, or personally experienced, negative side effects associated with the flu vaccine, and another 13 per cent said they don't think the flu vaccine works at all.

Twelve per cent didn't provide a reason for not getting immunized.

Better access not the issue

Most of those who did get immunized against the flu went to a family doctor to get the procedure done (36 per cent), despite somewhat recent efforts to make flu vaccines available over the counter at pharmacies in Manitoba.

"The whole idea with that is that you open it up and make it more convenient for people. And the fact that that happened and our vaccination rates haven't increased, it tells me that we're not addressing the issue," Borodenko said. "A belief in what the flu shot does is really the big issue."

Nineteen per cent of respondents had a pharmacist give them the injection. Borodenko said that goes to show that making the flu vaccine more accessible or convenient isn't going to solve low vaccination rates on its own. At its core, the problem comes down to education, he said.

Better education tactics needed

One of the reasons why so many people start getting the shot as they age comes down to growing concerns about not wanting to get sick, Borodenko said. Younger people with hardier immune systems aren't getting immunized as often as their graying counterparts, and Borodenko said that generational disconnect speaks to an issue with how the message of vaccination is communicated to the general public.

"You look at young people; they don't seem to understand," he said. 

"The message with the flu vaccine I'm not sure has ever changed over time. It's simply been, 'Get it because it's going to help you potentially not get the flu."

What's missing from the flu immunization campaign, in Borodenkos' eyes, is a clear explanation as to why getting vaccinated is important "for the greater good as opposed to just the individual reason why."