It’s Almost Time for your Flu Shot!
Flu season is just around the corner and it’s time to consider getting your flu shot. Getting a flu vaccine is especially important this year as COVID-19 continues to circulate in our community. The flu vaccine is key in preventing a respiratory infection that could result in unnecessary isolation and COVID-19 testing as well as missed days of work. It will also help to reduce the impact on the health care system that COVID-19 infections are already putting a strain on.
Cases of the flu usually begin in the fall with peak activity occurring from mid-December until the end of January. It’s better to get your flu vaccine early so that you are protected for as much of the flu season as possible.
What’s the big deal about the flu?
Infection with the flu can lead to complications such as pneumonia. Complications of the flu can be severe and potentially life threatening. People at higher risk of severe complications from the flu include:
- People 65 years of age and older
- Very young children
- Pregnant women
- People who have certain chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems.
Remember, when you get your flu shot you aren’t just protecting yourself – you’re also helping to protect the people around you, especially those who might be at higher risk of complications from the flu!
Keeping flu germs at bay
Getting yourflu vaccine is the most effective way to prevent the flu and its complications. The vaccine is recommended for people 6 months of age and older. Other ways to prevent the spread of the flu include:
- Frequent handwashing
- Coughing and sneezing into your shirt sleeve rather than in your hand
- Staying home when you are sick
- Cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces that people touch
Your flu shot is free
The flu vaccine is free for everyone in B.C. ages 6 months and older. You can receive the free flu vaccine from your family doctor or pharmacist.
Influenza strains contained in 2022-2023flu vaccines:
A/Victoria/2570/2019(H1N1)pdm09-like virus (new strain this year)
A/Darwin/9/2021(H3N2)-like virus (new strain this year)
B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus (in quadrivalent vaccines only)
Flu vaccines in BC
Most of the flu vaccines available in BC this season are quadrivalent vaccines that contain 4 strains of the flu. Individuals 6 months to 64 years of age will receive a quadrivalent vaccine. There is a trivalent vaccine called Fluad that contains 3 strains of the flu which is recommended for adults≥65 years. See below for more information about Fluad.
There are 4 types of flu vaccines in BC:
- Inactivated: the standard flu vaccine which is made of killed influenza viruses and recommended for people ≥ 6 months of age.
- Adjuvanted (Fluad): an inactivated trivalent flu vaccine that contains an adjuvant to cause a stronger immune response in older adults. It is a publicly funded vaccine that is recommended for adults ≥65 years of age. The absence of a 4th strain in this vaccine is expected to have minimal, if any, impact on protection against the flu this season as this strain has hardly been detected in circulation since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- High-Dose: an inactivated quadrivalent flu vaccine that contains 4 times the viral protein content than the standard flu vaccine formulation to cause a stronger immune response in older adults. This vaccine is recommended for people ≥ 65 years of age and is available for purchase only. See below for more information about Fluzone High-Dose vaccine.
- Live attenuated: made from weakened influenza viruses given as an intranasal spray into both nostrils. It is not approved for people younger than 2 years and older than 59 years of age.
The type of vaccine you receive generally depends on your age and vaccine availability.
Fluzone High-Dose vaccine
Fluzone High-Dose is an inactivated quadrivalent flu vaccine that contains 4 times the antigen content than the standard flu vaccine formulation (antigens are the proteins contained in vaccines that cause an immune response). As people age there is a natural weakening of the immune system which causes older adults to become less responsive to the standard-dose flu vaccine. Fluzone High-Dose has been shown to be more efficacious than the standard-dose vaccine in people over 65 years of age.
Fluzone High-Dose vs. Fluad
Fluzone High-Dose and Fluad areboth recommended for adults≥65 years of age. Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends either vaccinefor this age group over the standard-dose vaccine because they are expected to be more effective. Fluad is provided free for all adults ≥65 years of age, and Fluzone High-Dose is provided free to people ≥65 years of age living in long term care, assisted living facilities, and First Nations communities. Those ≥65 years of age who do not qualify for a free Fluzone High-Dose vaccine can receive the vaccine at TravelSafe Clinic for purchase.
Flu shotside effects
A common misconception is that the flu vaccine can give you the flu. It is not possible for the inactivated flu vaccine to give you the flu. The vaccine contains killed influenza viruses that cannot cause infection.
Common reactions to the flu vaccine include:
- Redness, tenderness and soreness at the site of injection.
- Muscle aches, tiredness or headache which are usually mild and last only 1-2 days.
- Fewer than 1 in 20 people may develop oculo-respiratory syndrome (ORS) which can cause red eyes, a cough, sore throat, or hoarseness.
- The live attenuated intranasal spray vaccine (Flumist) can also cause a runny nose and nasal congestion, fever, sore throat, cough, vomiting, stomach pain and irritability.
Flu vaccine and other vaccines
Many people are wondering if it is safe to receive a flu vaccine at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccine or other vaccines. The answer is yes. The flu vaccine can be given at the same time or at any time before or after any other vaccine, including a COVID-19 vaccine.
Flu vaccines are usually available at pharmacies and doctor’s offices by the end of October. Don’t delay, get your flu shot as soon as you can!