Influenza (Flu) Vaccine

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What is influenza (flu)? 

Influenza (often called “flu”) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. 

  • Influenza spreads easily from person to person through coughing, sneezing, and 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 mild to severe illness and, at times, can lead to death. 
  • A person with influenza is at risk of other infections, including pneumonia, which is a serious infection of the lungs.
  • Some people, including young children, pregnant people, the elderly, and people with certain medical conditions are at high risk of serious illness from influenza.
The best way to prevent influenza is by getting an influenza vaccine each year.

Everyone 6 months and older needs an influenza vaccine 

Everyone 6 months of age and older should get an influenza vaccine (often called the “flu shot”) every year. The vaccine is free and helps protect against influenza viruses.
Vaccination is especially important for the following groups:
People at high risk of serious illness from influenza


People at high risk of serious illness from influenza, include:

  • Children 6 months to less than 5 years of age
  • Pregnant people at any stage of pregnancy during the influenza season
  • Seniors 65 years and older
  • Residents of any age living in residential care, assisted living or other group facilities
  • Indigenous people
  • Children and teenagers required to take Aspirin® or ASA for long periods of time due to a medical condition
  • Children and adults who are very obese
  • Children and adults with certain medical conditions, including:
    • Heart or lung disorders that require regular medical care, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or cystic fibrosis
    • Kidney disease, chronic liver disease such as hepatitis, diabetes, cancer, anemia or weakened immune system
    • Those with health conditions causing difficulty breathing, swallowing or a risk of choking on food or fluids, such as people with severe brain damage, spinal cord injury, seizures or neuromuscular disorders


People who may be in close physical contact with those at high risk 


People who may be in close physical contact with those at high risk of serious illness from influenza include: 

  • Household contacts (including children) of people at high risk
  • Household contacts, caregivers and daycare staff of children under 5 years of age
  • Doctors, nurses and others working in health care settings, including long-term care facilities, who have contact with patients
  • Visitors to health care facilities and other patient care locations
  • Inmates of provincial correctional institutions
  • Those who provide care or service to people at high risk in potential outbreak settings such as cruise ships
Other groups 


Other groups who the vaccine is specifically recommended for include:

  • People who provide essential community services, including police officers, firefighters, ambulance attendants, and corrections workers
  • People working with live poultry


How to book an appointment

You can book an appointment online through the Get Vaccinated system or by phone if you have received an invitation.  If you are not registered, please register with the Get Vaccinated system. 

Influenza is causing serious illness in children

This year BC is experiencing an unusual influenza season that has started early with an intense surge in cases. Many children have not been exposed to influenza following two years of low influenza rates due to public health measures put in place to prevent COVID-19. This is why it’s especially important for children to get vaccinated against influenza now. Children, especially those under the age of 5, and those with underlying medical conditions such as asthma or heart disease, are at high risk of severe illness or complications from influenza, such as pneumonia and respiratory failure. 
To prevent serious illness, get your child vaccinated against influenza as soon as possible. Children 2 to 17 can get the nasal spray influenza vaccine instead of the vaccine given by injection if they prefer. It's safe for your child to get their influenza vaccine at the same time as other vaccines. 
When you vaccinate your child, you're also helping to protect other vulnerable family members and friends, as well as helping to ease the pressure on the healthcare system.

Options for booking your child's appointment: 

  • Book an appointment at a health authority clinic or pharmacy.
  • Book online using the Get Vaccinated booking link you received for your child by email or text message (re-send your booking link).
  • Call 1-833-838-2323 to book an appointment.
  • Book an appointment with your primary health care provider if they offer influenza vaccines.


How the vaccine is given

The influenza vaccine is usually given as 1 dose. Most influenza vaccines are given by injection (needle), but there also is a nasal spray influenza vaccine. In BC, influenza vaccines are usually available in October or November. For best protection, get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Children under 9 years of age who have never had an influenza vaccine need 2 doses, 4 weeks apart. The second dose of vaccine is important to give these children the strongest possible protection to last through the influenza season.

Influenza vaccines available in BC

There are two main types of influenza vaccines, the inactivated influenza vaccine that is given by injection, and the live attenuated influenza vaccine that is given as a nasal spray. The vaccines protect against either 3 strains of influenza (called trivalent vaccines) or 4 strains of influenza (called quadrivalent vaccines).
Influenza vaccines available in BC for the 2022-2023 influenza season:
  • FLUAD® Trivalent (inactivated).
  • FLUZONE® QUADRIVALENT (inactivated).
  • FLULAVAL® TETRA Quadrivalent (inactivated) (new this year)
  • AFLURIA® TETRA Quadrivalent (inactivated) (new this year) (for those 5 years of age and older)
  • FLUMIST® QUADRIVALENT (live attenuated).
The vaccine you receive will be based on your age, risk factors, and availability, but will be guided by the recommendations below. The best vaccine to get is the one you are being offered. 

Vaccines recommended for adults 65 years of age and older

Adults 65 years of age and older are at increased risk for severe illness, hospitalization, and death from influenza compared with younger populations. For the 2022-2023 influenza season, there are two enhanced influenza vaccines that are recommended for adults 65 years of age and older: 
  • FLUAD® Trivalent adjuvanted (inactivated).
Studies suggest that, in this age group, these two enhanced vaccines are potentially more effective than the standard dose unadjuvanted influenza vaccines.  
The FLUZONE® HIGH-DOSE QUADRIVALENT vaccine is free for adults 65 years of age and older living in long-term care, assisted living facilities, and First Nations communities. This vaccine contains a higher dose of antigen to help create a stronger immune response. 
The FLUAD® vaccine is free for all other adults 65 years of age and older. This vaccine is a trivalent influenza vaccine and contains an adjuvant that helps create a stronger immune response.
Either of these enhanced influenza vaccines is recommended for this age group. There is not enough evidence to show that one of these enhanced vaccines is better than the other.

Vaccines recommended for people 6 months to 64 years of age

Children 6-23 months of age will be given:

  • FLULAVAL® TETRA Quadrivalent.

Children and teens 2-17 years of age will be given:

  • FLUMIST® QUADRIVALENT (given as a nasal spray),
  • FLULAVAL® TETRA Quadrivalent, or
  • AFLURIA® TETRA Quadrivalent (for those 5 years of age and older).

People 18-64 years of age will be given:

  • FLULAVAL® TETRA Quadrivalent, or
  • AFLURIA® TETRA Quadrivalent.

People in this age group with severe needle phobia who are unwilling to get an influenza vaccine given by injection may be given the FLUMIST® QUADRIVALENT vaccine. However, it is important to note that one of the inactivated quadrivalent vaccines provide better protection against influenza than the FLUMIST® QUADRIVALENT vaccine for this age group.


You need an influenza vaccine every year

It's important that you get an influenza vaccine every year.
  • Influenza viruses change (mutate) from year to year, so each year, the viruses used to make the vaccine change to protect you against the viruses circulating that year.
  • Protection from the influenza vaccine can wear off with time, so you need a new one every year to stay protected.

Virus strains the 2022-2023 vaccines protect against

Because influenza viruses often change (mutate), the specific virus strains in the vaccine are reviewed each year by the World Health Organization (WHO) and updated as needed so that there is the greatest probability of matching the virus strains that are circulating in the community. The 2022-2023 influenza vaccines contain the following strains:
  • A/Victoria/2570/2019 (H1N1) pdm09-like virus.
  • A/Darwin/9/2021 (H3N2)-like virus (new this year).
  • B/Austria/1359417/2021-like virus (new this year).
  • B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus (in quadrivalent vaccines only) .


Influenza vaccine safety and side effects

Influenza vaccines are safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than to get influenza.

Many people have no side effects from influenza vaccines. For those that do, side effects are usually mild and go away on their own within a few days.  Serious side effects, like a severe allergic reaction, are very rare. 

For information on possible side effects after the inactivated influenza vaccine, see the HealthLinkBC File: Inactivated Influenza (Flu) Vaccine.

For information on possible side effects after the live attenuated influenza vaccine, see the HealthLinkBC File: Live Attenuated Influenza (Flu) Vaccine.

Learn more 


Date last reviewed: 
Wednesday, Dec 21, 2022