Influenza Vaccine Fact Sheet

Influenza Vaccine (Flu Shot)

Influenza (the flu)

  • Influenza is a virus that affects the lungs and can cause serious illness, especially in young children and the elderly. It is NOT the common cold.

  • Influenza is among the top ten leading causes of death in Canada.

  • Influenza is easily spread through the air by coughing, sneezing and/or talking, or by touching contaminated surfaces/objects (phones, doorknobs, tablets, etc.).

  • Symptoms of influenza include sudden high fever, cough, muscle aches, headache, sore throat, tiredness, and loss of appetite. Upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhea may also occur, especially in children.

  • The influenza vaccine (flu shot) is the best way to protect yourself and prevent the spread of influenza.

Who should get the flu shot?

  • Everyone, six months of age or older, should get a flu shot each year. Even healthy people can spread the flu virus if they are not vaccinated.

  • Children under nine years of age who have never had a flu shot need two doses given four weeks apart. If your child is over nine years of age, or has had a flu shot in the past, only one dose is required.

  • As per the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), individuals in the following four groups are particularly recommended to receive the flu shot:

Who should NOT get the flu shot?

  • People under six months of age.
  • People who have had a serious reaction to a flu vaccine or an ingredient in the vaccine.

  • People with a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome (muscle pain and weakness, or loss of muscle function) within six weeks of a previous dose of flu vaccine.

  • People with a history of Oculo-respiratory syndrome with lower respiratory symptoms (wheezing, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, throat constriction or difficulty swallowing) within 24 hours of a previous dose of flu vaccine should speak with their doctor before getting the flu shot.

  • People should not be given flu vaccine at the same time or within 14 days before or after RSV vaccine.

Note: People who have a serious illness should wait until they are better before getting the vaccine. People who have a mild illness can get the vaccine, even if they have a fever or are on antibiotics.

Is the flu shot safe?

  • The flu shot is a safe and effective way to protect yourself and others against the flu.

  • You can NOT get the flu from the flu shot.

  • As with all medicines, side effects may occur with vaccination, although mild, and include the following:

    • Arm soreness, redness or swelling at needle site

    • Fever

    • Headache

    • Tiredness

When should I call my doctor?

  • Serious reactions after the flu vaccine are very rare. Get immediate medical help if you/your child have any unusual symptoms such as:

    • Swelling in your face, mouth, or throat, and/or hives

    • Trouble breathing, hoarseness or wheezing

    • Fever above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit)

    • Convulsions or seizures

    • Other serious reactions to the vaccine

Note: You know best. If you notice anything that is not normal after a vaccine, check with your healthcare provider.

What if I decide not to be immunized?

  • The flu shot is highly recommended. Choosing not to be immunized or delaying immunization puts you at risk of getting sick with the flu or experiencing serious complications from the flu.

Important Reminder

  • With the co-circulation of COVID-19 and the flu this fall and winter, it’s more important than ever to get vaccinated for the following reasons:

    • Individual protection against the flu

    • Decreased burden on the healthcare system

    • Decreased illness that could be confused with COVID-19 and decreased need for COVID-19 testing

    • Decreased chance of co-infection in individuals (influenza and COVID-19) and outbreaks with both viruses