Throughout the pandemic, the COVID-19 vaccine has been top-of-mind for many Canadians.
But now that fall is here and winter is around the corner, pharmacists are urging people to get their flu shots as well.
“Science is showing that getting vaccinated, both with the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu vaccine, is safe and effective,” said Halifax-based pharmacist Angela MacNeil in an interview with Global News.
“And really, it’s the only way, the only option we have to help protect the vulnerable in our community this fall and winter as we are starting to battle the fourth wave of COVID.”
Getting the flu shot this year is more important than ever to avoid overloading the health-care system, which is already stretched thin, with preventable flu hospitalizations.
“We’re battling wave four of COVID at this point, so pressures from catching coronavirus, catching the flu, can be a lot on the health-care system,” said MacNeil, adding that people who get either the flu or COVID-19 are at a higher risk of getting other diseases as well.
“(It) does a number on the immune system, for sure, so we’ve got a defence mechanism to try to protect ourselves from getting one or both. We need to get ahead of it.”
The flu season last year was subdued, in part due to the public health restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
But now that more people are vaccinated against COVID-19 and those restrictions are starting to lift, MacNeil said the risk of catching the flu can increase.
Outweighing the risks
MacNeil also said the flu vaccine can’t give people the flu, much like the COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t give people COVID-19.
“It can only protect you against the flu,” she said.
“There are some instances — and we saw it with the COVID-19 vaccines — where after getting vaccinated, you may feel a little bit tired, a little bit run down for a day or two. It tends to be very very mild, and very rare with the flu vaccine,” she said.
“The risks and complications associated with getting the actual flu far outweigh any risks of getting the actual flu shot.”
While the flu shot doesn’t prevent people from catching the common cold, which does not yet have a vaccine, the risks of the flu “has much higher risks associated with it.”
MacNeil said people can check with their local pharmacy to see when they will have flu shots available.
“This is really our best defence to help protect everybody in our community this fall and winter,” she said.