It’s Time for your Flu Shot!
Flu season is just around the corner and it’s time to consider getting your flu shot. Sporadic cases of the flu are already being seen in parts of Canada while peak activity will usually occur from mid-December until the end of January. It is 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
Your Flu Shot may be Free
The flu vaccine is provided free to certain people including:
- People at high risk of serious illness from the flu
- People who are able to spread the flu to those at high risk of serious illness from the flu
- People who provide essential community services such as police officers and firefighters.
A complete list of eligibility can be found at the following link: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthlinkbc-files/inactivated-influenza-vaccine. You can receive the free flu vaccine from your family doctor or pharmacist.
Influenza Strains Contained in 2019-2020 Flu Vaccines:
A/Brisbane/02/2018 (H1N1) pdm09-like virus*
B/Colorado/06/2017 like virus (Victoria lineage)
B/Phuket/2013 like virus (Yamagata lineage)in quadrivalent vaccines only
Flu Vaccines in BC
There are different types of flu vaccines available in BC including trivalent (contains 3 flu strains) and quadrivalent (contains 4 flu strains) inactivated vaccines, and high-dose trivalent inactivated vaccine (Fluzone High-Dose). The type that you receive generally depends on your age and vaccine availability.
FluMist quadrivalent is a live attenuated nasal spray flu vaccine that has been available in past years. FluMist is not available in Canada for the 2019-2020 flu season. All flu vaccines available for this season are given by injection.
What is the difference between trivalent and quadrivalent influenza vaccines?
Trivalent flu vaccines contain two A strains of the influenza virus (H3N2 and H1N1) and one B strain, so protect against 3 strains of the flu. Quadrivalent flu vaccines contain these strains as well as an extra B strain, so protect against 4 strains of the flu.
Fluzone High-Dose Vaccine
Fluzone High-Dose is an inactivated trivalent flu vaccine that contains 4 times the antigen content than the standard influenza 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 influenza 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 is recommended for people 65 years of age and older. Although Fluzone High-Dose is not offered for free as part of BC’s influenza vaccine program, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends High-Dose Fluzone over the standard-dose vaccine because it is expected to be more effective.
Flu Shot Side 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.
Flu vaccines are usually available at pharmacies and doctor’s offices by the end of October or early November. Don’t delay, get your flu shot as soon as you can!
TravelSafe Clinical Educator – Kristin Cain, RN, BSc, MSc(A)