Viewpoint: Having a flu shot will save lives



Thank you once again, Shilo Zylbergold, for your humourous and informative article on outwitting the flu (Nov. 28 Driftwood). Once again, a delightful read on a dreary day.

My grandmother told me about the flu epidemic that threatened to become the new Black Plague. She told me how she and her “Cabbagetown” neighbours would brew a concoction of “eau de garlique,” then soak a rag in the odiferous liquid, tie it to a string and hang it around their husbands’ necks and send them off to work — not to ward off any germs but to keep others at bay!

She also spoke of chasing “snake-oil salesmen” from her doorstep with a broom. They were hucksters preying on the fears of those who could not bear to lose another loved one to this horrific illness.

The flu is still with us, but now, as Shilo explained so well, we know the science behind this killer. We also have a new “tool” to reduce the devastation this virus wreaks; we now have a vaccine.

By now the naysayers, believers of conspiracy theories and the misinformed, or those whose health is just fine, thank you very much, are ready to move on to another article. But please, read on.

In his column, Shilo chose to minimize his vulnerability, but influenza is a serious threat to those whose immune systems are compromised. I know this: my husband has just been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Like Shilo, the flu poses a very real threat to him.

A healthy person may feel unwell when the flu strikes. A cancer patient, however, may very well die from exposure to this virus. Make no mistake: the flu is a killer!

Look at it this way: would you take a loaded gun, aim it at Shilo and shoot him (or my Fred)? Surely not! Yet the unvaccinated stand a very good chance of doing just that when they cough, sneeze or simply touch a doorknob. This virus becomes a viral bullet.

When as a teacher I taught empathy lessons to my Grade 2 students, way back when the Earth’s crust was cooling, there was a line from one of the songs used in the program that is still very relevant: “May I think a little more of others and a little less of me?”

Please, as flu season fast approaches, put aside whatever bugaboos you may have about the flu shot. Consider that even if the vaccine proves to be only 40 per cent effective in reducing your chance of catching the flu bug, that’s a massive 40 per cent chance of a cancer patient not becoming infected and perhaps dying. And, if you are old enough to read this letter, you surely will not “catch” autism from the vaccine!

And, if I may add another thought, please consider giving the gift of life this holiday season. Make the effort to become a blood donor. Leukemia patients are just one group that relies on “fresh” blood and platelets to sustain life. Accident victims, those undergoing surgery and others also need transfusions.

You may never know the person whose life you are saving, but the recipient of your donation will never forget you.

The writer is a Salt Spring resident.

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