The health police - Canadians shirk the shot


The health police: enough already!
Ever felt as if you were under citizen’s arrest when a well-meaning friend or stranger asked if you really needed that slice of cake? Or whether your kids should be outside on such a hot day? We’ve got the comebacks that’ll put the health police behind bars

By Bonny Reichert
First published in Chatelaine’s July 2003 issue.
© Rogers Publishing Ltd.

Canadians shirk the shot

The offence Health Canada tells us that flu shots are not just a privilege but a responsibility. In fact, provinces such as Ontario have launched campaigns that offer free shots to everyone. Others have made the vaccine available at a nominal charge. The offshoot? There seems to be no good excuse for avoiding the shot and a fair bit of guilt for those who do.

Background check The issue is a complicated one. Dr. Andrew Simor, head of the department of microbiology and an infectious disease specialist at Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, explains that the flu shot has an overall effectiveness of 60 to 70 per cent. Some people who get the shot will get sick anyway, either because they have picked up a flu strain not included in the vaccine or because they didn’t make quite enough antibodies to ward off the virus entirely. And no, the flu shot will not prevent colds.
So, what’s so serious about the flu? “For people who are young and healthy, it’s no big deal,” Dr. Simor says. But if you’re older and have a depressed immune system, there can be major complications. Truth is, the main objective of these government campaigns is to stem emergency room crowding and cut back on missed workdays.

The verdict If you or someone you are in contact with are in a high-risk group, getting the shot makes sense. Otherwise, it’s up to you. “There’s little data to suggest that the vaccine is helpful for healthy adults,” Dr. Simor concedes. “I believe it’s a good idea, but that’s based on my gut feeling.”

Your comeback “If I don’t take a shot at you, why take a shot at me?”

  • Intro
  • Pregnant woman takes drugs
  • New mother weans baby
  • Woman dares to wine and dine
  • Whistle blown on latte habit
  Canadians shirk the shot
  • Cancer patient ignores unsolicited medical advice
  • Safe medications for pregnant women
  • Tea benefits
  • Cold + flu guide
  • Trade health police stories in our Health forum

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