Influenza (flu)

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The influenza vaccine is no longer available for the 2021-2022 season. This page will be updated with information for the 2022-2023 influenza season in August 2022.

What are influenza (flu) vaccines?

Influenza vaccines protect against viruses that cause influenza, often called the flu. Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease that can lead to serious illness, hospitalization and death. The vaccine does not protect against other viruses or bacteria that cause colds or stomach flu.

People in BC are being encouraged to protect themselves and those around them against influenza this year by getting an influenza vaccine. This year it is especially important for people to get vaccinated. Remember to plan ahead to get your vaccine – as this year most places will require you to book in advance. 

Find answers to frequently asked questions about influenza vaccines. 
 

Who should get an influenza vaccine?

  • 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. 
  • Influenza vaccination is free for everyone six months and older in BC for the 2021-2022 influenza season.
  • In BC, influenza vaccines are usually available in October. For your best protection, get immunized as soon as possible.
  • The influenza vaccine is your best defense against influenza. 
What types of influenza vaccines are available in BC?
 
  • There are two main types of influenza vaccines, the inactivated influenza (flu) vaccine, and the live attenuated influenza (flu) vaccine
  • Several different types of inactivated influenza vaccines and one type of live attenuated influenza vaccine are available in BC. 
  • The vaccines protect against either 3 strains of influenza (called trivalent vaccines) or 4 strains of influenza (called quadrivalent vaccines).
  • Your health care provider can tell you which vaccine is recommended for you. 

Why do I need an influenza vaccine every year?

It's important that you get the vaccine every year because:
 
  • 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. 
What virus strains do the 2021/22 influenza vaccines protect against?
 
Because influenza viruses change often (mutate), the specific virus strains in the vaccine are reviewed each year by the WHO and updated as needed so that there is the greatest probability of matching the virus strains that are circulating in the community. The 2021/2022 influenza vaccines contain the following strains:
 
  • A/Victoria/2570/2019 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
  • A/Cambodia/e0826360/2020 (H3N2)-like virus
  • B/Washington/02/2019-like virus
  • B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus 
The A/Victoria and A/Cambodia strains were not contained in the 2020/21 season vaccines.

How is the vaccine given?

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. 

Where can I get an influenza vaccine?

Influenza vaccines are provided at a wide variety of locations across the province, including:

  • Public health units
  • Pharmacies (pharmacists can immunize people 5 years of age and older with the injectable vaccine and 2 years of age and older with the nasal spray influenza vaccine).
  • Doctors' offices
  • Travel clinics

Services vary by location. You can use our influenza (flu) clinic locator to find an influenza vaccine clinic near you. 

To find a pharmacy offering the influenza vaccine near you, please visit this link. You may be able to book your influenza vaccine online or by phone, and some pharmacies are accepting walk-ins. 

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 about influenza vaccines, including possible reactions?

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

Translations

Find information in different languages in the HealthLinkBC File: Inactivated Influenza (Flu) Vaccine.

Date last reviewed: 
Thursday, Jun 23, 2022