Getting Your Flu Shot!
Flu season is just around the corner! Having lived in a world full of COVID-19 restrictions for almost the last two years, you might think the flu won’t be as bad this year. Think again! With restrictions lifting and more and more people interacting with each other, this year’s flu season is anticipated to be particularly difficult. This year even more than others, it is incredibly important to protect yourself against the flu, but the questions remain of how, why, and where? Well, dear Marauder, read on and find out about how you can contribute to fighting the annual flu season right on campus or at a pharmacy/doctor’s office right near you!
What is the flu?
Influenza or the common Flu is a respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses. It’s different from the common cold virus as influenza often causes a more severe form of illness. In some people, especially young children, those over 65 years of age, or people with other systemic illnesses (e.g. heart disease, diabetes, cancer, respiratory illnesses) influenza can be very severe, requiring hospitalization.1 As much as we like to think we’re young and invincible, university students can also face very, very severe outcomes from the influenza virus as well. This is even more so the case during the COVID-19 pandemic where infection by both the influenza and COVID-19 viruses is possible. In fact, each year, it is estimated that the flu causes 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths in Canada.2 Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and those around you against the flu.
Influenza symptoms typically include sudden onset of:
- high fever
- muscle aches and pains
Other common symptoms include:
- loss of appetite
- sore throat2
It is important to note that both the flu and COVID-19 present similar symptoms. If you see any overlap in symptoms, it is best to take this self-assesment and get tested to determine next steps.
The vaccine is recommended for anyone above the age of 6 months who does not have any allergic or adverse reactions to the vaccine. There are many flu vaccines available, but they all basically do the same thing: the vaccine gives your body an image of the virus prior to infection so that your immune system is better prepared to fight should you get infected.3 The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has stated that it is safe to receive both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time.5 While the flu vaccine is our best protection against the flu, standard procedures such as increased handwashing, wearing masks, and physical distancing will all help protect us as well.
Why do we need get the vaccine every year?
There are two main reasons why a new flu vaccine is required every year:
- A person’s immune protection from the vaccination declines over time so an annual flu shot provides optimal protection.
- Flu viruses are always changing; therefore, vaccines are adjusted annually according to research that predicts which strains of the flu vaccine will be most common that season.
Why is it especially important to get the flu shot this year?
Last winter (2020-2021) saw communities across the world take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. With limited face-to-face contact, mask-wearing, social distancing, and virtual events, last year’s flu case numbers were historically low. In spite of this, we must be prepared for a difficult flu season this year as many restrictions are lifted and people return back to normal activity. Furthermore, it’s known that mild flu seasons like the one we had last year, are typically followed by more severe ones. This is because less people gained a level of natural immunity against the flu last year. When people get infected and recover, they gain a level of immunity to protect themselves against further infection. Getting your flu shot will also help reduce the number of flu-related hospitalizations and alleviate the workload for hospital staff and resources that are already stressed. As University students, whenever we’re on campus, we’re bumping into A LOT of people on a daily basis. It’s critical that we protect ourselves from getting the flu and prevent ourselves from passing it onto those who are immunocompromised, the elderly, or very young children; should they get the flu, a poor outcome is much more likely. That’s why it’s especially important this year, in the flu season of 2021-2022, to get your flu shot! When you get poked, you’re not only protecting yourself, but protecting those around you too.
Where can you get your flu shot?
Good news is you can get your flu shot right on campus! The SWC flu shot clinic will be taking place November 10 & 11 from 9:00AM-4:00PM outside of the Wellness Lounge on the second floor of Peter George Centre for Living and Learning (PGCLL).
To book an appointment, visit: https://swapps.mcmaster.ca/fluclinic/
Our dates don’t work for you? No worries at all! Almost every pharmacy will have the flu shot available. Some great, convenient locations to check out are the Shoppers Drug Mart just across Main St. or the one in Westdale! You can check for vaccine availability here and both locations take walk-in appointments for the flu shot!