On Oct. 30, approximately 1,000 people from east Scarborough will walk into Centennial College’s HP Campus in order to have a stranger stick a needle in their arm.
According to Health Canada, 10 to 25 per cent of Canadians catch the flu every year, and with the onset of the winter months comes the governmental push for the public to get the flu shot.
“One shot has three viruses,” says Carolyn Scott, Centennial’s nurse. “These have been predicted as the major strains by organizations like the WHO [World Health Organization.”
While it is a popular concern that the virus will not immunize against all flu strains, Scott says this is not a problem.
“These organizations have made a judgement call about which strains to include. But these viruses will definitely be present,” she says. “In the end it is still just a judgement call made by human beings.”
But in endorsing the flu shot, Scott has put her money where her mouth is. She has been a long time partaker of the flu shot, and as such she can put to rest some of the rumours surrounding it.
“People need to know that it is a dead virus they’re being injected with. You cannot get sick off a dead virus,” she says.
“People who say that they got sick immediately were probably going to get sick anyway. It takes two weeks after injection to become protected.”
But in the interim, there is one thing you can do to prevent a bout of influenza.
“Hand washing. Hand washing is the best prevention,” she says. “Since SARS the health department have been pushing it, but not just running water over your hands, thorough hand washing.”
And for those who don’t feel comfortable with the flu shot there are other alternatives.
“If you take vitamin C everyday and build up your immune system, that should help,” says Ken Park, who runs Morningside Health Foods.
“We have herbal cold remedies like Echinacea and homeopathic medicine, like Flu Buster for the sinuses. There’s a lot to choose from,” he says.
Park has been in the natural medicine business for 18 years.
“Homeopathic medicine is the best, but you should be okay if you take vitamin C everyday,” he says.
Nevertheless, Centennial College sees people of all ages coming to the campus for flu shots.
“The elderly usually come in the morning although there are some in the afternoon. If I see them waiting in line I usually bring them up to the front,” says Scott. “Families usually come after 4.p.m, but it is a steady stream all day.”
She says that it is most important for children and the elderly to be immunized.
“I think they should, absolutely, 100 per cent. They can’t fight disease in the same way adults can. For children, their immune systems aren’t fully formed and the elderly have a decreased immune system.”
But she emphasizes getting the flu shot is a personal choice.
“It is a decision that everyone has to make for themselves and consider whether or not it’s right for them.”