Influenza is a significant cause of death in Canada, especially among the elderly and frail, killing an average of 4,500 people, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. Many of those deaths can be prevented through immunization.
Figures from Vancouver Coastal Health, which serves Vancouver, North Vancouver, West Vancouver and Richmond, show that in B.C., more than 1,400 people die each year from influenza or pneumonia.
A person can be infected with an influenza virus and pass it along to others without even knowing it.
Last month, CBC News reported that a New Westminster man, after getting an influenza vaccine, contracted a rare and debilitating condition and became paralyzed for almost five months.
Richard Ryan, 44, was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disease that attacks the nervous system.
Dr. Richard Stanwick, chief medical officer for the Vancouver Island Health Authority, said people considered to be at high risk should be immunized.
"It won't be that our immune systems will say, 'Hey, I know that virus. I'm going to be able to defend against it,'" Stanwick said Monday.
People who are at risk include children age six months to 23 months, pregnant women, seniors and health care workers.
"People who perhaps had said, 'I'm going to dodge the flu shot and weather the influenza,' not only will they basically be putting other people at risk as they've done in previous years by spreading the virus, but they, too, may find themselves out of action for a week to 10 days," Stanwick said.
He admitted that influenza vaccines carry a slight risk of side effects, but the chance of developing that particular disease from a flu shot is one in a million.