Canadian warns against vaccine apathy after flu sends him to hospital for two months
TORONTO -- As the Public Health Agency of Canada prepares for what could be a long and severe flu season, one Ontario man is urging everyone to get the vaccine before it’s too late.
Last year, Kevin Salmon, a 37-year-old father from Acton, Ont., decided against getting his flu shot, but he eventually contracted the virus from his daughter and it left him hospitalized for two months.
“I was having troubling breathing, so I’m like: ‘I’m calling 911, I’m going to the hospital’” he told CTV News. “After that I don't remember really anything until I woke up again.”
Salmon ended up contracting flu-related pneumonia and was forced into a medically induced coma for two weeks.
“They said I almost died a couple of times and I was the sickest person in Oakville,” he said.
While, Salmon has a newfound respect for the influenza virus and the vaccine meant to protect him from it, data from Statistics Canada suggests only one third of Canadians above the age of 12 get the flu shot every year, while a recent poll from London Drugs suggests apathy with the flu shot is rising, with 33 per cent of those who don’t plan on getting the vaccine indicating they don’t believe it’s effective, and another 29 per cent indicating they don’t believe they need it.
Salmon is far from the only Canadian to be sent to the hospital after contracting the influenza virus, either.
“Every year, about12,000 or more Canadians end up being hospitalized for flu-related complications,” said Dr. Howard Njoo, the deputy chief public health officer for the Public Health Agency of Canada.“Between three- and four-thousand individuals actually die as a result of the illness. So, for me it makes common sense that you should get your flu shot."
While the effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies every year, studies suggest a person hospitalized for influenza is two to five times more likely to die if they weren’t vaccinated.
It’s still too early to predict what flu season will look like this year, experts typically look to the southern hemisphere for an idea of what to expect.
Australia, where the flu season typically runs from May until October, has been dealing with a longer than usual flu season, where 3,915 people have been sent to hospital with the virus and 812 have died thus far, according to the Australian Health Department.
“We had a very extended season,” said Ian Barr, the deputy director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza.
“Sometimes the severity gets a little bit lost because it’s over a longer period, but in terms of number of cases, number of deaths, and number of hospitalizations, it will be close to, if not the biggest season we’ve had in the past 20 years.”
With Canada’s flu season on the horizon, Health Canada is preparing for a season similar to Australia’s and is sending 11.2 million doses of the flu vaccine to clinics across the country, which are expected to be available by the end of October.
Health Canada recommends that anyone six months of age and older should get the flu vaccine, especially if you are 65 years of age or older, live in a nursing home or are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.
Ontario provides this version of the drug free of charge. Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Northwest Territories offer the higher-dose vaccine in long term-care facilities.
Click here for a list of clinics across Canada offering the vaccine.