Laura Barber gets a flu shot from public health nurse Lisa Halliwell during a clinic Thursday at Saanich Commonwealth Place. (Dan Ebenal/News Staff)

EDITORIAL: Flu shot can’t inoculate us from opposing views

It may be the season of giving, but let’s all do our part to make sure it’s Christmas cheer and not a virus that we’re spreading to our friends and loved ones.

Island Health says we are entering into peak flu season and is recommending those who can to roll up their sleeves and get an influenza vaccination. While many may feel they are able to fend off the virus, others aren’t so lucky. It is estimated the flu is responsible for 12,000 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths each year in Canada.

“The groups that are the most at risk are the ones who may suffer the most serious effects of flu – pneumonia is one of the most common things, but it can also make other conditions worse, like heart conditions,” said Dee Hoyano, medical health officer with Island Health.

The vast majority of us choose not to receive the flu shot. Hoyano said close to 250,000 doses of vaccine have been sent out this year by Island Health, which wouldn’t even cover a third of Island residents even if all the vaccine is used. That number is backed up by figures from Statistics Canada that show one-third of Canadians over the age of 12 received the flu vaccination in 2013/14.

While most of those not getting the vaccine simply don’t see the need, there are some convinced the flu shot can cause harm. There is consensus in the scientific community that these fears are unfounded. Yet those fears persist, as evidenced by a recent letter to the editor. While we disagree with the views expressed in that letter, we remain committed to providing an opportunity to express opinions (as long as they don’t resort to name-calling or promote hatred).

It would appear those sentiments are not shared by many who saw the letter online, with several demanding the post be taken down. The battle of ideas is not won by silencing those we disagree with and outlawing values we do not share. And the value of free speech is greatly diminished when we are only committed to protecting the rights of those we agree with.

Unfortunately, the flu isn’t the only danger being faced by society today. We believe the free expression of opinions is the only way to inoculate ourselves from being partitioned into silos, where we only hear from those who share our beliefs.

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