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Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones - Get the Annual Flu Vaccine

Nov 30, 2015
This is the time of the year we begin to hear a lot about the flu. Influenza, also called the flu, is a serious disease. It is a virus that spreads easily from person to person, mainly, through sneezing and coughing.

By Dr. Xu Wang

This is the time of the year we begin to hear a lot about the flu.  Influenza, also called the flu, is a serious disease. It is a virus that spreads easily from person to person, mainly, through sneezing and coughing.

Flu usually makes people much sicker than a common cold. People with flu illness would miss a few days of school or work.  Infants and children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems or other medical conditions are at a greater risk of getting the flu. Flu can cause severe complications, such as pneumonia, dehydration and even death.

The best way to protect yourself and your family is to get the yearly flu vaccine. The flu shot has been free for Ontarians since 2000. It is very safe and is recommended for everyone older than 6 months, including pregnant women. For families with newborns, it is very important that anyone in contact with infants get the flu vaccine.

Young children, especially those under 5, are among those at highest risk of serious illness and death from the flu, and those aged 6 to 10 are most likely to spread the virus. The great news is that this year, a nasal spray flu vaccine is available as an option to all Ontario children from 2 to 17 years old. This nasal spray flu vaccine is safe, convenient and is just as effective in protecting our children from getting the flu.  In fact, the spray seems to be more effective for children from 2 to 5 years of age.  My three-year-old twin boys got their nasal spray recently without the usual pain from an injection.

The flu vaccine itself cannot cause flu.  Although the flu vaccine is not 100% effective, it still prevents many illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths due to influenza.  For some people who get the flu despite having been vaccinated, the illness is usually less severe and shorter in length.

The flu virus changes each year, so it is important to get a flu shot every year. It is also important to get the flu vaccine as early as possible to get the best and most protection, since it takes up to two weeks to build immunity.

You can also protect yourself and your family by washing your hands often with soap and water, or using an alcohol-based sanitizer, coughing into your sleeve or a tissue and staying home if you are sick.

It’s more convenient than ever to get your flu vaccine—more than 100 pharmacies across Simcoe Muskoka are now able to give the flu shot and nasal spray vaccine to all, except children under 5 years of age. You can also get your flu vaccine from your primary care provider and some walk-in clinics.

Given the availability of the flu vaccine through so many pharmacies, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is not holding flu shot clinics this year, but will provide flu vaccine by appointment to children under the age of 5 who are unable to access a health care provider and to those people who don’t have an OHIP card.

For more information about the flu or to book an appointment  for your flu vaccine, please call Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday and speak with a public health nurse, connect with us on Facebook or Twitter or visit

Dr. Xu Wang is an Acting Associate Medical Officer of Health in Simcoe Muskoka and a senior Public Health and Preventive Medicine resident physician at Northern Ontario School of Medicine.

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