Pharmacy U

New research shows Canadians understand the flu, but not the importance of the vaccine

Bhavika photo3

Earlier this year, health officials worried that Canadians would not elect to get their flu shot given the ineffectiveness of last year’s vaccine.

By Bhavika Prajapati

But a new Shoppers Drug Mart survey on the attitudes of Canadians towards the vaccine showed that this is not the case. A surprising 83 per cent of respondents said the perceived ineffectiveness of last year’s flu vaccine won’t affect their immunization decision this year.

This is good news and speaks to Canadians’ recognition that vaccination is the best defence we have against the flu. But there is some concerning news. Far too many Canadians don’t make flu vaccination a priority. In fact, 54 per cent of the same survey’s respondents admitted that they are unlikely to get the flu shot this year and only 47 per cent actually agreed that the flu vaccine was the best defence against the flu.

These results are troubling, especially considering that the flu vaccine has been around for such a long time and every year health officials aim to raise awareness of its importance. With pharmacists now able to administer the flu vaccine, it is important for all Canadian pharmacists to take on a larger role in helping to educate Canadians about the flu vaccine and other methods of protection.

The recent Shoppers Drug Mart survey is useful because it shows how far we have come in flu education and how much further we need to go. For instance, many Canadians already know that best practices for fighting the flu include washing hands, avoiding sick people, and eating a healthy diet.

Bust most Canadians are still confused about the vaccine. Nearly half of survey respondents (47 per cent) believe the flu vaccine does not need to be taken every year despite the majority (92 per cent) knowing that every year there are different strains of flu. This is probably the most jarring statistic coming from the survey. It reflects that the health community has missed the mark when it comes to informing Canadians that the flu strains mutate from year-to-year, making it imperative to get vaccinated every year.

As a first point of contact for many patients, pharmacists are on the front lines and need to carry on playing a role in correcting misconceptions around the flu vaccine and promoting increased use.

Vaccinations continue to be a topic of debate. Pharmacists have an opportunity to make sure that Canadians are made aware of the important flu facts and learn how the vaccine can help them to stay flu free.

Bhavika Prajapati is a Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist/owner in Markham, ON.