AN extremely rare but possible side-effect of getting the flu shot is Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a disorder where the body's immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system.
Maureen Kaschmer began a Winnipeg GBS support group in 1992 and says four of the current 12 members believe they got the neurological disorder after receiving the flu shot.
"I myself did not get GBS from the flu shot, it wasn't around yet in 1963, but I would not get the flu shot or the vaccination for H1N1," said Kaschmer. "I wouldn't tell people what to do, not to get the shot, but I wouldn't get one myself for a million dollars."
The Winnipeg support group is the only one in Canada that meets regularly, and a second one has started recently in Brandon. Bill Haskett of Virden, who said he got GBS in 2006 from his flu shot, is active in the Winnipeg support group and for the last year has been trying to get his story out.
Haskett got immediate numbness after receiving his shot and within hours was on a ventilator and was left in a coma for three months. After a couple years of physiotherapy, Haskett can walk again, but his mobility is severely diminished and he can no longer work on his farm. "I have asked to see the research on vaccinations, especially for women and children, and the (health authorities) never have anything to show me to prove that it is safe," Haskett said.
A video shown to Winnipeggers waiting to get their flu shots Wednesday said only about one in a million people vaccinated for flu will develop GBS. Health officials warn the public serious complications from the flu are far more common than complications from the vaccine, especially for people with chronic illnesses.