“Ow!” Joseph Salverda yells, as the six-year-old gets his first flu shot. As soon as the needle is out, though, he goes back to his smiling, friendly self.
He’s the oldest of his three siblings, including four-year-old Cherith — who doesn’t make a peep — Peter (2, lands a punch) and three-month-old Abigail. Their mother, Brittny Salverda, went first to show her young brood how it’s done, and they take turns sitting on her lap as they get inoculated.
“This is one piece in our effort to be healthy,” the mom of four said. Their young family has been hit by the flu before, “and each time it’s pretty terrible. We thought we’d make good efforts this time around to try to avoid it.”
In the public health unit at the Saanich Centre, Medical Health Officer Dr. Dee Hoyano said Island Health encourages parents to get their children vaccinated against the flu.
“Now is the time to get it rather than waiting until December or January when really your chances of being exposed are much higher. It still takes a little bit of time for your body to build the protection from the vaccine, so think about getting your flu shot now,” Hoyano said.
The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates 3,500 people die of flu-related complications every year across the country, she said. Children, seniors and people with medical conditions are most at-risk for suffering from the flu.
“If you have an elderly person in your home, if you have a baby in your home or you’re in regular contact with people like that, you definitely also qualify for the flu vaccine,” she said.
“We know the flu vaccine is a very safe vaccine. It has very few side effects and it’s beneficial. It helps prevent you from getting sick and it also helps prevent your community from getting sick, because if you don’t get the flu, then you’re not going to be able to pass it on.”
While clinics offer flu shots, pharmacists throughout Greater Victoria also provide the annual vaccine, which pharmacy manager Dave Jeske said can be more convenient. At Broadmead Pharmasave where he works, they’ve seen approximately 20 to 30 per cent more people get the flu shot each year, because pharmacies have longer hours and don’t require appointments.
“I tell people it’s partly about protecting themselves, but it goes beyond that. Although people will say, ‘I won’t get the flu,’ it’s about protecting others from getting the flu,” Jeske said.
Whether or not you’ve had the flu before is not an indicator that you won’t get the flu in the future, he said, especially since the influenza strains change every year. He himself has had the flu before, and was “knocked flat” for nearly 12 days as it worked through his system. At the time he was young and healthy.
“I can’t imagine a child or elderly person going through that same process because it was very difficult.”
Once all three Salvedera kids get their shots (baby Abigail has already had hers), the nurse tells them, “You’re still brave if you cry.” By the time the family is packed up and ready to leave, the tears have dried and all the kids are smiling again.