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What you need to know about this year’s flu shot

Diana Duong | posted Tuesday, Oct 28th, 2014

To get or not to get the flu shot — that is the annual question. This year we asked Dr. Robin Williams, Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, to address many common questions and concerns.

How is the flu shot different this year?

“The virus is very smart, it migrates and shifts and changes,” said Dr. Williams. ”Sometimes it does a big shift, sometimes it just does a little shift. The world experts gather at the World Health Organization in Geneva every year and look at what they’ve isolated in the previous season, both in the Northern and Southern hemisphere, to try to determine what the best match of the subsets of the virus and the bugs are, and what’s the best match to put in the vaccine.”

This year, researchers have landed on three components, making it a trivalent vaccine. At its best, this year’s vaccine is 90 percent efficient. According to Dr. Williams, it’s usually somewhere between 70 and 90 percent. “You don’t know until you start to see what bug it is we get, and have we got a good match.” But even if it’s “only 70 percent effective,” Dr. Williams says, this protection is much better than nothing. And she adds that the percentage only represents its protective efficacy, and has nothing to do with risk.

Who should get the flu shot? Who shouldn’t?

Infants over six months old can start getting the flu shot, says Dr. Williams, adding that they need two doses if it’s their first time getting vaccinated. The same applies to anyone who hasn’t had a shot since July 2010. This is the H1N1 (swine flu)-containing vaccine. After that, it’s just a single dose. Pregnant women should also get the flu shot. The only people who should not get the flu shot are infants under six months old, anyone with an anaphylaxis allergy to any of the ingredients in the vaccine, or anyone who has developed the rare one-in-a-million Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) within six weeks of a previous influenza immunization should avoid influenza immunization in the future.

Hold off on the flu shot if you have a moderate to severe illness with fever, wait until your symptoms subside. People with a cold, but no fever, can get the flu shot. If you have a neurological disorder that is developing, hold off until the disease is stable.

Does the flu shot give me the flu?

“I can say with factual clarity that you do not get influenza from this vaccine, it does not give you influenza,” said Dr. Williams.

There are many factors for why people have personal anecdotes about feeling sick after getting the flu shot. “You might have been incubating influenza before we gave you the shot, that’s not to say it didn’t fully protect you – although we do know that if you get influenza in the environment you’re in after you’ve had the shot, it’s more likely not to be as serious an illness.”

Dr. Williams says some people might mistake their illness for the flu. “There’s a whole variety of other viruses that we follow every morning on rounds, coronavirus, rhinovirus, others that can give you illness, and it wouldn’t have been the influenza.”

How do you address concerns about formaldehyde, aluminum, mercury, Alzheimer’s?

Some components of a vaccine have raised concerns because it is perceived as dangerous; however, these ingredients or preservatives are tested and known to be harmless and already naturally found in our bodies or in nature. The mercury found in vaccines, for example, is not the poisonous methylmercury many mistake it for, but the natural ethylmercury, called thimerosal, which  is an additive and keeps vaccines safe and clean, preventing any bacteria or fungi growth. The mercury used in vaccines is harmless and not worth any concern, according to Dr. Williams.

That said, even thimerosal has been removed from some vaccines. “Thimerosal has been removed not because of science, but because of perception,” says Dr. Williams. ”It’s an ethylmercury, not the methylmercury, which is the one that has been associated with Minamata disease and Alzheimer’s.

“It’s been removed where it could be removed, since it keeps the vaccines safe from being contaminated. The multi-dose flu vaccine does contain thimerosal. If people feel strongly, though, there’s a vaccine available, it’s a single dose, without thimerosal. But I want to clarify that this kind of mercury that’s in it, keeps vaccines clean and sterile and allows it to be stored. The ethylmercury is removed very quickly from the body, so I’m not concerned about thimerosal. It has been removed because of perception. We want to go with what parents are comfortable. It’s absolutely safe.”

Formaldehyde, another concern to some patients, is found not only in the flu vaccine but also the diphtheria, tetanus, and polio vaccines. It inactivates the toxins from the weakened virus in vaccines. Commonly associated with preserving dead bodies, formaldehyde has a scary reputation, but we are constantly exposed to it, says Dr. Williams. Formaldehyde is made inside our own bodies, as part of single carbon metabolism; it’s used to make DNA and the building blocks of amino acids. There is a quantity of formaldehyde in our bodies much greater than any small amount found in vaccines, so it is also not a concern.

According to Dr. Williams, aluminum, another additive, has also caused unnecessary concern. As aluminum is found in much larger quantities in baby formula, flour, dairy products, and our daily ingestion than in a vaccine, it is nowhere near being dangerous as well.

Isn’t it better to boost your immunity naturally?

Many believe that whatever is natural is better for you, and that “naturally” building your immune system with vitamins is preferable to a vaccine. But Dr. Williams says there is no better or alternative way to fight the flu than the vaccine.

“I do think a healthy lifestyle is important: physical fitness, washing your hands, a healthy diet, and appropriate vitamins,” said Dr. Williams. “You stay within the speed limit, wear your seatbelt, don’t drink and drive, those are all healthy things all of us should do, and I believe getting vaccines is part of that.”

Flu season generally lasts from November to April, but flu shots are available now as it takes a while for your body to build its immunity.

Tory edges Ford in closer-than-expected battle for mayor

Michael Talbot | posted Monday, Oct 27th, 2014

John Tory’s vow to unite a divided council and usher in a new era of transit with his ambitious SmartTrack plan was embraced by voters who elected him the 65th mayor of Toronto in a tight battle on Monday night.

Throughout the grueling seven-month campaign Tory’s support steadily grew, with a final Forum poll on the eve of the election showing him with a comfortable 12-point lead over second-place Doug Ford. But it was much closer than that on election night, with Ford nipping at Tory’s heels.

In the end Tory earned about 40 per cent of the vote, trailed by Ford and Chow with 34 and 23 per cent respectively.

“I will go to sleep tonight knowing that I gave it absolutely everything,” Doug Ford said surrounded by family and supporters. “I want to congratulate John Tory and his team on a job well done.”

“Win or lose I always said that we would run a campaign that made us proud and tonight we can hold our heads high.”

Mayoral candidate Doug Ford waves to supporters after losing to fellow candidate John Tory at Ford's election night headquarters closing in Toronto on Monday, October 27, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

Mayoral candidate Doug Ford waves to supporters after losing to fellow candidate John Tory at Ford’s election night headquarters closing in Toronto on Monday, October 27, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

It’s not the end of the Ford reign at city hall, though — Rob Ford was elected as councillor in Ward 2, Etobicoke — the seat he held before he was elected mayor in 2010.

“I look forward to these next four years,” he said.

“My brother (Doug) put his heart and soul into something he had no experience doing,” he added before hinting that he would run again next term.

“Just watch in four more years folks…”

Rob Ford speaks to supporters after winning his seat on city council at mayoral candidate Doug Ford's election night headquarters in Toronto on Monday, October 27, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

Rob Ford speaks to supporters after winning his seat on city council at mayoral candidate Doug Ford’s election night headquarters in Toronto on Monday, October 27, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

Olivia Chow, who was once considered the front-runner to become the city’s next chief magistrate, found herself frustratingly mired in third place in the late polls and couldn’t advance any further on the big day.

“Our city has a new mayor,” Chow conceded. “It’s not the result we have hoped for, but I want to congratulate John Tory on running an excellent campaign.”

“I’m going to go home and have some wings and beer and take a bit of a break,” she said when asked what was next. She also hinted that she was a victim of strategic voting by the ‘anyone-but-Ford’ faction of voters.

“I think this campaign was a lot about the Ford brothers,” she said. “People either wanted to vote for Ford or not.”

Toronto mayoral candidate Olivia Chow applauds supporters after John Tory was elected the city's new mayor in Toronto on Monday, October 27, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michelle Siu

Toronto mayoral candidate Olivia Chow applauds supporters after John Tory was elected the city’s new mayor in Toronto on Monday, October 27, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michelle Siu

Neither Chow nor Ford were able to halt Tory’s late momentum despite valiant and at-times desperate efforts.

Chow questioned the financial feasibility of Tory’s $8-billion 53-kilometre transit overhaul, and said he didn’t have a realistic financial plan to pay for it.

Ford said Tory wasn’t upfront about the need to tunnel to complete portions of SmartTrack and painted his rival as a wealthy elite out of touch with the common people of the city.

He also taunted Tory, accusing him of flip-flopping on numerous issues.

Hoping to ride a popular catchphrase like his brother’s ‘Stop the gravy train,’ Doug Ford took to asking, “What’s the story, Mr. Tory?” any time he found himself in the presence of a microphone.

In the end, the ‘folks’ of Toronto answered the question for him, drowning out chants of “Ford More Years” by putting their faith in Tory, who narrowly lost to David Miller when he first ran for mayor in 2003.



Tory’s victory on Monday capped off a heated campaign that saw numerous key players drop out along the way. Both Karen Stintz and David Soknacki withdrew after failing to gain traction with voters, and Rob Ford bowed out after being diagnosed with a rare form of abdominal cancer.

His illness set the stage for Doug Ford’s last minute push to keep the top spot at city hall in the family, signing his papers just 15 minutes before the nomination deadline.

Ford promised to cut the land-transfer tax by 15 per cent a year if elected, and create 32 kilometres of new subway at a cost of $9-billion, with a priority on a downtown relief line.

He also brought a pugnacious side to the campaign, engaging in shouting matches and taking pot shots at his opponents in heated debates.

But he couldn’t convince the majority of the electorate to give another Ford a chance at the job after the last four years marked by scandal and distraction at city hall.

Tory was quick to remind the public of the turmoil of the last term, suggesting it would be more of the same under Doug Ford’s leadership.

While deriding his main rival, Tory continued to focus on the campaign’s key issues – transit and congestion.

As part of his gridlock reduction plan, he proposed 24-hour construction to speed-up road works and other construction projects. He also proposed a zero-tolerance policy for delivery trucks parked illegally during rush hour.

Rob Ford elected councillor of Ward 2 Etobicoke North

Justin Piercy | posted Monday, Oct 27th, 2014

Rob Ford will return to work at Toronto city hall. The outgoing mayor was elected as councillor of Ward 2 Etobicoke North on Monday.

Ford handily defeated his closest opponents, Luke Larocque and Andray Domise.

The seat had previously been held by Ford between 2000 and 2010, before he left the job to run for mayor. His brother Doug represented Ward 2 after winning the job in the 2010 election.

The outgoing mayor put his name forward for the council job after ending his mayoral campaign in September following his cancer diagnosis, for which he is currently undergoing treatment.

Michael Ford, Rob Ford’s nephew, had been a candidate in Ward 2 but stepped aside when his uncle entered the race, instead registering to run as a Toronto District School Board Trustee candidate in Ward 1.

Week of Oct. 27, 2014

BT Toronto | posted Sunday, Oct 26th, 2014

Coming up on Breakfast Television this week:

We’re gearing up for the Toronto municipal election on Monday–we’ll have everything you need to know to get out and vote.

On Thursday, Frankie Flowers is back with the latest in gardening trends.

And to end the week off with a scare, tune in as we celebrate Halloween–you’ll have to tune in to see what our hosts are dressed up as this year.

Be sure to watch BT weekdays 5:30 to 9 a.m. on City, right here at BTtoronto.ca, or on our Breakfast Television mobile app for iOS and Android!

Comedian Russell Brand slams Harper for reaction to Ottawa shooting

The Canadian Press | posted Saturday, Oct 25th, 2014

A British celebrity isn’t wowed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s handling of the aftermath of the shooting of an honour guard at the National War Memorial.

Harper’s address to Canadians after Wednesday’s deadly rampage that included a gunfight on Parliament Hill was the subject of The Trews, comedian Russell Brand’s YouTube series in which he dissects media coverage of current events.

“The incidents in Ottawa are being used to advance a narrative that will not only entitle them to further wars abroad, but will entitle them to inhibit our freedoms,” Brand says in the Oct. 23 episode.

He says Harper’s repeated emphasis on terrorism and Islam are a subtle way of advancing a Conservative political agenda focused on increased military deployment.

Brand, who has produced 174 episodes of The Trews since it debuted this past February, has only recently become widely known for his political engagement.

Brand went on to contrast the political reaction to Cpl. Nathan Cirillo’s slaying at the National War Memorial with the reaction after Justin Bourque’s shooting rampage in Moncton, N.B. earlier this year, in which three RCMP officers were gunned down.

Brand concluded the Moncton shooting didn’t receive the same degree of attention from Harper because it was perpetrated by a disaffected white Canadian rather than someone believed to have ties to a perceived foreign enemy.

DVP closed this weekend for scheduled fall maintenance

CityNews | posted Friday, Oct 24th, 2014

Drivers in Toronto will have to plan for another weekend of road closures as the Don Valley Parkway (DVP) is scheduled to be closed for annual fall maintenance.

The DVP will be closed from the Gardiner Expressway to Highway 401 from 10 p.m. on Friday to 5 a.m. on Monday.

City crews will be doing road repairs, inspecting overpasses and cameras, and cleaning catch basins, among other tasks.

Alternate routes for drivers include Don Mills Road, Bayview Avenue, Yonge Street and Victoria Park Avenue.

Other road closures will also be in effect for events and construction projects.

Closures for events

Charity Bed Race
Two westbound lanes of Bloor Street West, from Prince Edward Drive to Royal York Road, will be closed on Sunday from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Halloween Parade
Bloor Street will be closed in both directions between Jane Street and Runnymede Avenue on Sunday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Variety Village 5 Kilometre Wheels, Run and Walk-N-Roll
Danforth Avenue, from Kingston Road to Birchmount Road, will be closed on Sunday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Construction projects

Bathurst Street
The TTC and city road crews are undertaking track work, watermain repairs and other road improvements at Bathurst and Wolseley streets, and Bathurst and Dundas Street West.

The intersection of Bathurst and Wolseley streets will be closed until Nov. 2 for work around and outside the Wolseley Loop. Drivers also won’t have access to Bathurst from Willis to Robinson streets, just north of Queen Street West.

The 511 Bathurst streetcar are being replaced by buses, and the 511 Bathurst bus will be on diversion during the closure

Parkside Drive road and sidewalk repairs
Parkside Drive, between Bloor Street West and Lake Shore Boulevard West, will be reduced to one lane until early November for road resurfacing and sidewalk repairs.

Adelaide Street West road, watermain and TTC work
Adelaide Street West, from Simcoe to York streets, will be partially closed until mid-November for watermain work, TTC track removal and road reconstruction.

Don Mills Road closure for watermain work
The southbound curb lane of Don Mills Road, from York Mills Road to Lawrence Avenue East, will be closed until Nov. 30 for watermain relining.

An additional southbound lane on Don Mills will be closed from Mallard Avenue to Bond Avenue from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every day.

Bridge repair on York Mills Road
One eastbound lane and one westbound lane of York Mills Road, from Lesmill to Scarsdale roads, will be closed for bridge repair.

The work started on Aug. 11 and will continue for around 11 weeks until the end of October.

Watermain projects on Richmond Street
Richmond Street will be reduced to two lanes between Church and York streets for watermain work. The work started on Aug. 11 and will run through October.


Drivers can stay up-to-date on construction details by visiting the City of Toronto website.

Upcoming construction can also be viewed on the T.O. INview map.

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