Influenza (flu)

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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.

Find answers to frequently asked questions about influenza vaccines. 
 

Who should get an influenza vaccine?

  • Everyone 6 months of age and older should get an influenza vaccine every year. The vaccine is free. 
  • 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 BC, influenza vaccines are usually available in October. For best protection, get vaccinated 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) vaccineThe vaccines protect against either 3 strains of influenza (called trivalent vaccines) or 4 strains of influenza (called quadrivalent vaccines).

The following influenza vaccines will be available in BC for the 2022-23 season:

  • FLUAD®
  • FLUMIST® QUADRIVALENT
  • FLUZONE® QUADRIVALENT
  • FLUZONE® HIGH-DOSE QUADRIVALENT.

The vaccine you receive will be based on your age, risk factors, and availability. 

What vaccines are recommended for adults 65 years and older?

For the 2022-23 influenza season, there are two enhanced influenza vaccines that are recommended for adults 65 years of age and older: FLUZONE® High-Dose Quadrivalent vaccine and FLUAD® adjuvanted vaccine. 
 
  • The FLUZONE® High-Dose Quadrivalent vaccine is publicly funded (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 publicly funded 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.
Adults 65 years and older are at increased risk for severe illness, hospitalization, and death from influenza compared with younger populations. Studies suggest that, in this age group, these two enhanced vaccines are potentially more effective than the standard dose unadjuvanted influenza vaccines.  
 
Either of these enhanced influenza vaccines are recommended for this age group. There is not enough evidence to show that one of these enhanced vaccines is better than the other.
 

What vaccines are recommended for people 6 months to 64 years of age?

  • Children 6-23 months of age will be given the FLUZONE® QUADRIVALENT vaccine.
  • Children and teens 2-17 years of age will be given the FLUZONE® QUADRIVALENT or the FLUMIST® QUADRIVALENT vaccine (given as a nasal spray).
  • People 18-64 years of age will be given the FLUZONE® QUADRIVALENT vaccine. 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 the FLUZONE® QUADRIVALENT vaccine provides better protection against influenza than the FLUMIST® QUADRIVALENT vaccine for this age group.

Why do I need an influenza vaccine every year?

It's important that you get an influenza 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 2022-23 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 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) 

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

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: 
Monday, Sep 05, 2022