Seasonal influenza (‘flu’) vaccines
Every fall, BC offers immunization against viruses that cause influenza, or ‘flu’. There are a number of strains of virus that cause this disease, which change a little every year. This means that the flu vaccine is modified each year, too, so that people are protected against the strains of virus that are most likely to circulate in their community that season.
There are a number of flu vaccines available in BC. For example, there is a nasal spray available for children age 12-17, and a higher dose available for older adults (65+) who can be more vulnerable to serious disease. You can find out more about these on the Immunize BC website.
Do I need to get vaccinated against influenza?
Yes. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends that everyone over 6 months old should get a flu vaccine. It protects you and those around you from getting sick with influenza. This is important as for some people, it can be a serious disease leading to hospitalization and death. Even in healthy people, flu often causes unpleasant symptoms which can lead to time off work or other disruptions to your daily life.
Getting vaccinated is especially important if you are a healthcare worker or work in continuing care. Seniors, and especially people in long-term care settings, are particularly vulnerable to complications from influenza, which can lead to severe illness and death. Studies have shown that immunization of long-term care staff against influenza is associated with substantial decreases in illness and death amongst residents. NACI describes getting a flu vaccination as part of healthcare workers’ duty to provide the highest standards of care. You can read their full statement here.
Getting vaccinated against flu is especially important this year, because COVID-19 is still circulating in our communities. This means three things:
- There is a risk of catching influenza and COVID-19 at the same time. This would be likely to cause very serious illness, especially among seniors.
- Symptoms of influenza and COVID-19 can be similar. So, if you catch influenza it is likely that you will need to self-isolate and take a COVID-19 test to work out which disease you might have.
- COVID-19 measures taken last year meant there was very little influenza in BC. That means there is less natural immunity in the community and we might see a more severe flu season. That is already starting to happen in some European countries.
Is it safe to get a flu vaccine?
Yes. Millions of people are vaccinated against influenza every year. Many experience no side effects. Common reactions to the vaccine can include soreness, redness, and swelling where the vaccine was given. Other symptoms can include fever, headache, aching muscles, and fatigue that may last 1 to 2 days.
Most people in BC will receive what is called an inactivated flu vaccine. This cannot give you influenza.
It has been shown to be safe to receive an inactivated flu vaccine at all stages of pregnancy. It is also safe to be vaccinated against influenza and COVID-19 at the same time.