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

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

There are two main types of influenza vaccines:

Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older gets 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 vaccine, see the HealthLinkBC File: Inactivated Influenza (Flu) Vaccine

For a list of people eligible for the free live attenuated influenza vaccine, see the HealthLinkBC File: Live Attenuated 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 vaccine

Parents may have heard different reports about the live attenuated influenza vaccine (the nasal spray vaccine). Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization has reviewed the most recent research on the effectiveness of this vaccine and continues to recommend this vaccine as a safe and effective option for children 2 – 17 years of age. Unlike in previous years, it is no longer preferentially recommended over the inactivated influenza vaccine for children in this age group.

Fluzone High-dose influenza vaccine

Fluzone® High-Dose is an injectable influenza (flu) vaccine approved for use in adults 65 years of age and older and it:

  • is made to protect against influenza viruses most likely to cause illness for that particular season.
  • contains four times the antigen (the part of the vaccine that prompts the body to make antibodies) of a standard-dose influenza vaccine. The additional antigen is intended to create a stronger immune response (more antibodies) in older individuals, who generally respond at lower levels than younger individuals.
  • is not currently publicly funded (free) in BC. Read why all vaccines are not free here
  • may be available for purchase from some pharmacies and travel health clinics. Services vary across BC.

For the 2018/19 influenza season, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization concluded that there is good evidence that Fluzone® High-Dose provides better protection compared with standard-dose influenza vaccines for adults 65 years of age and older. Whether the improved immune response leads to greater protection has been a topic of ongoing research. The BC Communicable Disease Policy committee reviewed this information and decided that more studies are needed to confirm better protection for adults over 75 or 85 years of age and across different influenza seasons.

Receiving an influenza vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting against influenza. Influenza vaccine is especially important if you have chronic health conditions that increase your risk for complications from influenza. In BC, if you are an adult 65 years of age or older, you may wish to discuss influenza vaccine options (including Fluzone® High-Dose) with your health care provider.

Get answers to frequently asked questions about influenza vaccines here

Date last updated: 
Monday, Nov 05, 2018
Date last reviewed: 
Wednesday, Nov 01, 2017