More Saskatchewan residents are aware that the flu shot helps prevent hospitalizations and save lives, according to a survey commissioned by London Drugs.

That figure is now at 81 per cent, an eight point rise over last year.

“The awful flu seasons experienced over the last few years may have had a silver lining: flu vaccine uptake among those who haven’t been vaccinated in the past. Skepticism sometimes declines following a year where the vaccine is a good match. Last year’s vaccine provided good protection against the circulating strains,” London Drugs pharmacist Gianni Del Negro said in a news release.

Ninety-eight per cent of those who got a flu shot last year plan to get one this season, according to the survey.

Thirty- nine per cent say they won’t get vaccinated for influenza this year. Reasons given include: the belief that it’s not effective; that healthy people don’t need it; that it can have negative side effects; and that they just tend to forget or not get around to it.

“Unfortunately, many Saskatchewan residents might not get a flu shot this year due to misconceptions about the benefits of receiving a flu shot and concerns about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines. The reality is that the flu shot is safe and it is the most effective tool we have in protecting against the flu, preventing its spread and ultimately it saves lives,” Del Negro said in the release.

“Flu shots are especially important for the elderly and young children, who are more susceptible to flu-related complications that can lead to serious health problems or death. Even healthy individuals should get a flu shot because the higher the rate of vaccination, the greater the protection for the most vulnerable individuals,” Del Negro said.

The flu season could be difficult this year due to potential vaccine delays coupled with the early start and large number of flu cases in Australia, which is often an indicator of the severity of flu in Canada, London Drugs says.

The online survey was conducted by Insights West from Aug. 22 to 28 among a representative sample of 264 Saskatchewan adults. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error is +/- 6.03 percentage points.