Influenza

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.

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.

A note about the 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.

A note about Fluzone High-Dose:

Fluzone High-Dose (a high dose trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine) is approved for use in Canada for adults 65 years of age and older. This vaccine is not currently publicly funded in BC; however, it will be available for purchase from pharmacies throughout BC. Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization does not currently recommend preferential use of this vaccine over the other influenza vaccines available for use in this age group. 

Get answers to frequently asked questions about influenza vaccines here