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Did you know?

In Canada, thousands of people are hospitalized and may die from influenza and its complications during years with widespread or epidemic influenza activity.

How the flu vaccine works


Flu Shots During Pregnancy

The disease

  • Influenza (often called the flu) is an infection of the upper airway caused by the influenza virus.
  • Influenza spreads easily from person to person through coughing, sneezing, or having face-to-face contact. The virus can also spread when a person touches tiny droplets from a cough or sneeze and then touches their eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands.
  • Influenza can cause serious illness and can lead to hospitalization and even death.
  • A person with influenza is at risk of other infections, including viral or bacterial pneumonia, which is an infection of the lungs.
  • Young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with certain medical conditions are at high risk of serious illness from influenza.

For more information about influenza, see the HealthLinkBC File: Facts About Influenza (the Flu)

The vaccines

Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older should get a yearly influenza vaccination with rare exception. There are many different influenza vaccine products, but everyone 9 years of age and older only need one dose of seasonal influenza vaccine each year.

In B.C., influenza vaccines are provided free to people who are at high risk of serious illness from influenza (such as young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with certain medical conditions), those able to transmit or spread influenza to those at high risk, and people who provide essential community services.

For a list of people eligible for a free inactivated influenza vaccines (given by injection), see the HealthLinkBC File: Inactivated Influenza (Flu) Vaccine

Anyone who is not eligible for a free influenza vaccine can purchase it at most pharmacies and travel clinics.

Live attenuated influenza (nasal spray) vaccine

FluMist® Quadrivalent is not available for use in Canada for the 2019-2020 influenza season. Therefore, no live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) given by nasal spray is available and all influenza vaccines will by given by injection.

Fluzone® High-Dose influenza vaccine

Fluzone® High-Dose is an inactivated influenza (flu) vaccine approved for use in adults 65 years of age and older. It contains four times the antigen of a standard-dose influenza vaccine. The antigen is the part of the vaccine that helps your body build up protection against disease. This additional antigen is intended to create a stronger immune response in older individuals and thereby provide better protection against influenza.

Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends that any of the available influenza vaccines should be used in people 65 and older. However, when available, NACI recommends that individuals 65 years of age and older should get Fluzone® High-Dose because it is expected to provide better protection compared to the other flu vaccines. Fluzone® High-Dose is not currently publicly funded (free) in B.C. It is available for purchase from some pharmacies and travel health clinics. For more information about Fluzone® High-Dose and which vaccine is right for you, talk to your health care provider.

Get answers to frequently asked questions about influenza vaccines here

Date last updated: 
Thursday, Oct 03, 2019
Date last reviewed: 
Wednesday, Nov 01, 2017