Everyone is vulnerable to influenza (the flu). The flu shot is free, and available to anyone 6 months of age and older who lives, works, or goes to school in Ontario. The flu shot is your best defense against the flu. You can get a flu shot through your family doctor, local participating pharmacies, or local Public Health Unit. The flu shot is available to the general public at the beginning of November each year.
National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) now recommends that COVID-19 vaccines may be given at the same time, or any time before or after, other vaccines, such as the flu vaccine.
Co-administration with COVID-19 vaccine is NOT currently recommended for individuals 6 months to under 5 years of age. Individuals of this age group should wait a period of 14 days before or after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, prior to receiving the flu shot.
Individuals with suspected, probable or confirmed COVID-19 infection, and those who are close contacts of a COVID-19 case, should not attend flu immunization appointments or clinics during their period of isolation.
Check out the following resources to learn more about the flu, the flu vaccine and how to best protect yourself and your family from the infection.
- Influenza is a respiratory (lung) infection caused by the Influenza virus and can cause serious illness, especially in young children and the elderly. It is NOT a common cold.
- Influenza is among the top 10 leading causes of death in Canada.
- COVID-19 and Influenza are different viruses, although they are both very contagious and have many of the same symptoms. If you develop symptoms of Influenza, follow the same precautions taken for COVID-19.
- Influenza is a reportable disease and must be reported to the Local Medical Officer of Health under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
- Muscle aches and pains
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Fatigue (tiredness
- Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea (most common in children)
Influenza spreads through the air by coughing, sneezing and/or talking, or by touching objects used by an infected person (Example: Door handles, toys, tablets, phones)
- Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing and do not share food, drinks or eating utensils with others.
- Wash your hands with soap and water after coughing, sneezing, wiping a nose, eating or before preparing food.
- Stay home if you are not feeling well and keep your child at home if they are not feeling well. Children with Influenza may return to school 5-7 days from the start of symptoms.
- If your child has a fever greater than 39°C or if symptoms worsen or continue to persist, contact your doctor
There is an influenza vaccine that can help prevent you from getting the virus. The flu shot is safe and is the best way to prevent the flu.
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.
As per the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), individuals in the following four groups are particularly recommended to receive the flu shot:
1.Individuals at high risk of influenza-related complications or who are more likely to require hospitalization:
- Pregnant women
- Adults or children 6 months of age and over with the following chronic health conditions:
Heart, kidney, or lung/respiratory problems
Morbid obesity (BMI > 40)
Cancer or other conditions that lower the immune system
Anemia or blood diseases
Neurologic or neurodevelopment conditions
- Children and teens who have had long term treatment with aspirin
- People 65 years of age or older
- People who live in long-term care homes, retirement homes or other chronic care facilities
- Indigenous peoples
2. Individuals at increased risk of transmitting influenza to those in the high-risk groups listed above and/or to infants under 6 months of age:
Health care workers and other care providers
Those who live with individuals at increased risk of influenza related complications
Those who live with or take care of children aged zero to 4 years
Those who live with pregnant women who are expecting a newborn during the flu season
Those who provide services within closed settings to those at risk (e.g. crew on a ship)
3. People who provide essential community services (Example: EMS, firefighters, police
4. Poultry industry workers
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 to 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 flu vaccine
People with a history of Oculo-respiratory syndrome with lower respiratory symptoms (wheeze, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, throat constriction or difficulty swallowing) within 24 hours of a previous flu vaccine should see their doctor before getting the 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.
- The flu shot is a safe and effective way to protect yourself and other against influenza
- You can NOT get the flu from the flu shot
- As with other medications, side effects may occur with vaccination, although mild, and include the following:
Serious reactions after vaccination are very rare. Get immediate medical help if you/your child have any of the following symptoms:
- Swelling in your face, mouth, or throat and/or hives
- Trouble breathing, hoarseness or wheezing
- Fever above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees F)
- Convulsions or seizures
- Other serious reactions to the vaccine
You know best. If you notice anything that is not normal after a vaccine, contact your healthcare provider.
The influenza vaccine 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.
With the co-circulation of COVID-19 and Influenza, it is more important than ever to get your flu shot for the following reasons:
- Individual protection against influenza
- 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