I am writing in response to the letter to the editor entitled “Flu shot picture doesn’t help” written by J.L. Craig and featured in the Nelson Star on November 2.
It’s an unfortunate fact that every fall we see articles and letters incorrectly stating that the influenza vaccine is harmful and unnecessary. These commentaries, which often contain erroneous and exaggerated details, are concerning to medical professionals on the frontlines in the battle against influenza.
Physicians and nurses who have thoroughly studied the benefits of immunization advise people to get the influenza vaccine. These are society’s health-care providers. They are the people who actively work to keep people safe from unnecessary sickness. They have witnessed firsthand, every winter, the impact of influenza on children and adults of all ages. They are knowledgeable about and committed to population health and wellness.
While influenza vaccine is not 100 per cent effective in eliminating any chance of infection, it is the best preventative weapon we have to reduce the annual winter toll of illness among our most vulnerable citizens.
While Cochrane reviews of medical evidence are one source of assessment, there are limitations to their assessment processes. Readers wanting to be fully informed may want to review BC Medical Health Officers discussion of those limitations at newsroom.gov.bc.ca/ministries/health/factsheets/letter-to-editor-vaccinating-healthcare-workers.html
Health professionals know that while influenza symptoms can be mild for many, the illness can also be deadly for some. Influenza infection is often more serious for seniors and those with preexisting health conditions. Complications from influenza can include bacterial pneumonia, bacterial meningitis, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes. Healthy adults who choose not to get immunized should consider the impact of their decision. If they do get sick with the flu they can pass the illness along to a person who is more susceptible to severe influenza illness — their elderly mother, perhaps, or their neighbour’s new baby.
I would strongly encourage your readers to visit the ImmunizeBC website at immunizeBC.ca or contact their local public health nurse for accurate and balanced information about vaccinations.
Dr. Robert A. Parker
Medical Health Officer