Influenza

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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

What are influenza vaccines?

Influenza vaccines protect against viruses that cause influenza, often called the flu. The vaccine does not protect against other viruses or bacteria that cause colds or stomach flu. Several different influenza vaccines are available in B.C. 

Who should get an influenza vaccine?

  • 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. 
  • Vaccination is especially important for 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) and those able to transmit or spread influenza to those at high risk. In B.C., the influenza vaccine is provided free to these people.
  • You can find a list of people eligible for a free inactivated influenza vaccine in the HealthLinkBC File: Inactivated Influenza (Flu) Vaccine.
  • Anyone who is not eligible for a free influenza vaccine can purchase it at most pharmacies (pharmacists can immunize people 5 years of age and older) and travel clinics.
  • The vaccine is usually given as 1 dose. Children under 9 years of age who have never had a seasonal influenza vaccine need 2 doses. The second dose of vaccine is important to raise their level of protection and should be given 4 weeks after the first dose. 

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 be given by injection.

Fluzone® High-Dose influenza vaccine

Fluzone® High-Dose is an inactivated influenza 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 extra antigen is used to create a stronger immune response in older people to 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 people 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 to buy 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.

What are the benefits of getting the vaccine?

The vaccine is the best way to protect against influenza, a serious and sometimes fatal infection. When you or your child get vaccinated, you help protect others as well by reducing the spread of the influenza virus.

Where can I learn more?

More information on the inactivated influenza vaccine, including possible reactions and who should not get the vaccine, can be found in the HealthLinkBC File: Inactivated Influenza (Flu) Vaccine

For answers to frequently asked questions about influenza vaccines, visit our FAQ about influenza vaccines page

About influenza

  • Influenza (often called the flu) is an infection of the upper airway caused by an influenza A or B 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).
Date last updated: 
Wednesday, Apr 08, 2020
Date last reviewed: 
Monday, Apr 06, 2020