Influenza

Flu Shots During Pregnancy

How flu vaccine works

 

About the vaccine

Why get vaccinated against influenza (the flu)?

Influenza (flu) is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and even death. Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others. In Canada, thousands of people are hospitalized and may die from influenza and its complications during years with widespread or epidemic influenza activity.

Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect against the flu. When you get vaccinated, you help protect others as well by reducing the spread of the influenza virus.

How does the flu vaccine work?

Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine.

What flu viruses does this season’s vaccine protect against? 

Flu vaccines are designed to protect against the flu viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming flu season.

The 2016/17 seasonal influenza vaccines protect against the following viruses: 

  • A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus 
  • A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)-like virus 
  • B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus
  • B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus (in quadrivalent vaccines only)

Who should get the flu vaccine?

Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older gets a flu vaccine, with rare exception. 

Who is eligible for a free flu vaccine?

In BC, the flu vaccine is 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) and those able to transmit or spread influenza to those at high risk.  

For a list of people eligible for a free flu vaccine, see the following:

Who is eligible for the free inactivated flu vaccine (flu shot)?

Who is eligible for the free live attenuated flu vaccine (nasal spray vaccine)?

Anyone not eligible for a free flu vaccine can purchase it at some pharmacies (pharmacists only provide immunizations to people 5 years of age and older) and travel clinics. Some employers also provide free vaccines to employees.

Special consideration regarding egg allergy:

People with egg allergies can be safely immunized with the inactivated flu vaccine. People with egg allergies should not get the live attenuated flu vaccine (nasal spray flu vaccine).  Make sure your health care provider knows about any allergic reactions.

When should I get vaccinated?

Flu season in Canada generally runs from November through April. In B.C., flu vaccines are usually available in October. Though you can receive this vaccine at any time during the flu season, for best protection, you should get immunized as soon as possible.

Where can I get the flu vaccine?

Flu vaccines are provided at a wide variety of locations across the province including public health clinics, physician’s offices, travel clinics and pharmacies (*pharmacists only provide immunizations to people 5 years of age and older).  

To find a flu vaccine clinic near you, visit the BC Flu Clinic Locator .  People eligible for a free flu vaccine can get the vaccine from clinics marked as 'public' or 'both'. People not eligible for a free flu vaccine can purchase the vaccine from clinics marked as 'private'. 

Why do I need a flu vaccine every year?

A flu vaccine is needed every year because protection from vaccination declines over time. As well, flu viruses are constantly changing so each year the flu vaccine is reviewed and updated to protect you against the viruses circulating that year. 

For more information about the flu vaccine, who should and should not get it, the benefits and possible reactions see the following:

        •       HealthLinkBC File: Inactivated Influenza (Flu) Vaccine
        •       HealthLinkBC File: Live Attenuated Influenza (Flu) Vaccine 
        •       HealthLinkBC File: Why Seniors Should Get Influenza (Flu) Vaccine
        •       HealthLinkBC File: Influenza (Flu) Immunization: Myths and Facts

About the disease

What is influenza (flu)?

Influenza is an infection of the upper airway caused by the influenza virus. It can cause mild to severe illness.  A person with influenza is at risk of other infections, including viral or bacterial pneumonia which is an infection of the lungs.  Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or even death.

Some people, such as seniors 65 years and older, very young children, and people who have lung or heart diseases, certain chronic health conditions, or weakened immune systems are at high risk for serious flu complications. Healthy pregnant women in the second half of their pregnancy are at greater risk of being hospitalized following infection with influenza virus. However, even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and pass it to others.

How influenza spreads

How is influenza spread?

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 on another person or object and then touches their eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands.

What are the symptoms of influenza?

Influenza symptoms can include fever, headache, muscle pain, runny nose, sore throat, extreme tiredness, and cough. Children may also experience nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Although infections from other viruses may have similar symptoms, those due to the influenza virus tend to be worse.  Symptoms can begin about 1 to 4 days, or an average of 2 days, after a person is first exposed to the influenza virus. Fever and other symptoms can usually last up to 7 to 10 days, but the cough and weakness may last 1 to 2 weeks longer.

For more information about influenza, see the following:

HealthLinkBC File: Facts About Influenza (the Flu)