You may be thinking about getting vaccinated against the flu this year. Considering that 5% to 10% of adults and 20% to 30% of children will be affected by the influenza virus each year, that's not a bad idea.
Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization advises all Canadians over age 6 months to get a flu shot. That's because vaccination is one of the most effective preventive measures you could take. And with the "shot in the arm" that a vaccine can give, you're less likely to be one of the 12,200 hospitalizations or 3,500 deaths blamed on the flu each year.
Still, you may be unsure. Perhaps answers to a few questions might make your decision easier:
Should I be vaccinated against the seasonal flu this year? Probably yes – except for those 6 months of age or younger or if you have had severe reactions to the vaccination in the past. If neither of those applies to you, you should definitely be vaccinated if you fall into particular risk categories:
- are aged 65 years or older
- live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
- have a lung disease (e.g., asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD])
- have a heart condition (e.g., angina, congestive heart failure)
- have diabetes or another metabolic disease
- have a kidney problem
- have a blood disorder (e.g., anemia)
- have a neurologic or neurodevelopment condition
- have cancer or a weakened immune system (e.g., are taking steroid medications, or have HIV)
- are aged 6 months to 59 months
- are aged 6 months to 18 years and are taking long-term ASA therapy
- have been diagnosed as suffering from morbid obesity (BMI of 40 or higher)
- are of Indigenous descent
- are pregnant
The injectable flu shot and the nasal spray have been shown to be safe for many people with egg allergies. If you have certain medical conditions, you should not receive the nasal spray. Talk to your health care provider about this and any other concerns you may have before you are given your flu vaccine.
Does the seasonal flu vaccine really work? Up to 60% of healthy people who get a flu shot will be protected from the virus. Those who still get the flu usually get milder symptoms. After being injected with the vaccine, it can take a couple of weeks to take effect. If you catch a flu virus in that wait period you won't be protected.
When should I get vaccinated? You could get a flu shot at any time during flu season between November and April. But because of the time needed for the vaccine to take effect, you should get the vaccination early before the peak infection time. Ask your health care provider when is the best time for you to get the seasonal flu shot.
How much will I have to pay for a seasonal flu shot? Most provinces publicly fund the flu shot. In other provinces, you may be eligible for a publicly funded flu shot depending on your risk for flu-related complications. Otherwise, the cost of a flu shot can vary, and may range from $25 to $30.
Is there any risk involved in getting a seasonal flu shot? The benefits of prevention outweigh the risks with a flu shot. Rarely, people will experience allergic reaction. More often, they will experience no side effects or perhaps soreness, redness, or swelling at the spot where the shot was given. Contrary to myth, a flu shot cannot cause the flu, since it never contains any live virus.
Will I need to be vaccinated against new strains of flu on a regular basis? Flu shot requirements change every year. To help protect yourself against new flu strains, it is important to get re-vaccinated every year.