Getting vaccinated against the flu can help prevent babies, seniors and other vulnerable populations from getting sick and developing potentially life-threatening complications – but fewer than two-thirds of B.C. residents are planning to get a shot this year.

That’s according to a new Insights West survey commissioned by London Drugs, which found a full 36 per cent of British Columbians intend to avoid the latest influenza vaccine. This year’s shot was designed to protect against several strains of the virus, including two that are similar to the H1N1 and H3N2 strains.

Unfortunately, a lot of B.C. residents’ reluctance to take part appears to be driven by misconceptions around vaccination.

Pollsters found about one-third of the people planning to avoid the new flu shot are doing so because they don’t think it’s effective, or that it only works for previous flu strains.

Other common misconceptions are that healthy people don’t need the vaccine, or that it can have negative side effects.

Gianni Del Negro, a pharmacist at London Drugs, said those concerns are completely misplaced.

“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 a news release.

Despite those troubling findings, the poll also found the vast majority of B.C. residents recognize that getting a flu shot can protect vulnerable groups who are more susceptible to the virus and its complications. A full 83 per cent said the vaccine helps prevent hospitalizations and even saves lives.

Another positive finding: About 10 per cent of respondents who said they’d never received a flu shot also told Insights West they plan on getting one this 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,” said Del Negro.

The 2017-18 flu season was particularly bad, with nearly 4,000 cases recorded in B.C. alone. That’s partly because of the vaccine, which health officials said was 38 per cent effective overall – lower than the usual success rate.

On years when the strains are predicted more accurately, the vaccine can prevent flu infection in about 80 per cent of people who receive it. And despite a persistent myth, health officials insist the inactivated influenza vaccine cannot give recipients the flu.

The Insights West survey was conducted online from Aug. 22 to 28 among a representative sample of 624 B.C. adults. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.92 percentage points.