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Influenza Vaccine Complete Information | Health

Influenza Vaccine Complete Information | Health

Everything you want to know about Influenza Vaccine is here!

Influenza (or "flu") is a respiratory infection caused by the influenza virus.  Influenza outbreaks happen every year.

Influenza vaccination is safe for anyone 6 months of age and older.  It protects you and those around you from the flu and its complications.  Because influenza viruses change -- often from year to year -- people don't remain immune for very long.  Flu shots are usually given once a year starting in October.  The shots provide protection throughout the flu season -- October through April.

Should my child get the flu vaccine?

Yes.  All children over the age of 6 months should get the flu vaccine every year.

Children 6 months to 9 years of age and children who have never had a flu vaccine will need 2 doses of the vaccine spaced at least 4 weeks apart.

People who have had one or more doses of regular seasonal flu in the past, or children 9 years of age and older will only need 1 dose per year.

The vaccine is especially important for children and young people who are at high risk of complications from the flu, including those who:

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  • Between 6 months and 5 years of age.
  • Chronic disorders of the heart or lungs (eg bronchopulmonary dysplasia, cystic fibrosis, asthma) are severe enough to require regular medical follow-up.
  • Have chronic conditions that weaken the immune system, such as immune deficiency, cancer, HIV or a treatment that causes immune suppression.
  • Have diabetes or other metabolic diseases.
  • Chronic kidney disease.
  • Chronic anemia or blood disorder.
  • Is a chronic neurological or neurodevelopmental disorder. 
  • Are severely obese (body mass index 40).
  • Are pregnant.
  • Acetylsalicylic acid (ASA or aspirin) has to be taken on a daily basis.
  • Live in a chronic care facility.
  • Live in First Nation or Inuit communities.
  • Living with another child or adult who is at risk of complications from the flu.

Children under the age of 5 are at higher risk of complications from the flu - such as high fever, convulsions, and pneumonia.  If you have children under the age of 5 or who have health complications, everyone living in the household should get the flu vaccine.  This is especially important if you have babies under 6 months old or if a member of your household is pregnant.

Caregivers who care for children under the age of 5 should also be vaccinated.

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How safe is the flu vaccine?

The influenza vaccine is very safe.  It cannot cause the flu.  Side effects are usually mild and may include:

  • Mild pain where the needle went into the arm for 1 to 2 days.
  • Mild fever or pain for the first day or two after vaccination.

Do not give ibuprofen or acetaminophen to your child before or around the time of vaccination because this does not stop the pain of the injection and may affect how well the vaccine works.  These drugs may be used to treat fever, pain, or other bothersome side effects if they develop after vaccination.

Can my child get the flu vaccine at the same time as any other childhood vaccine, including the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes.  It is safe to receive the seasonal flu vaccine (shot or nasal) at the same time as (or before/after) any childhood vaccine, including the COVID-19 vaccine.  Many children are behind with their childhood vaccines or boosters because of the COVID-19 pandemic and getting the vaccines at the same time can help them catch them more quickly.

For children ages 5 to 11, it may be best to wait at least 14 days between COVID-19 and other vaccines.  This is because if a side effect occurs, doctors will know which vaccine they are related to.  But give vaccines only if you are sure that no other vaccines will be given to your child late.

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I'm pregnant. Is it safe to get the flu shot?

Yes, the flu shot is safe.  Those who are pregnant should be vaccinated.  Mothers who have been vaccinated against the flu during flu season are usually protected against the flu for a few months.  The flu shot is also safe and is highly recommended for those who are breastfeeding.  Since babies under 6 months old cannot get the flu shot (it will not work), antibodies against the flu are transferred through breast milk.

Who should not get the flu shot?

The very few children who should not get the flu vaccine:

  • Children under 6 months of age.  Although the vaccine is not harmful to babies under 6 months of age, it does not seem to work.
  • If your child has a severe allergy to thimerosal (a preservative in contact lens solution and flu vaccine), a thimerosal-free vaccine should be given.

The influenza vaccine is safe for individuals who are allergic to eggs.

What is the nasal flu vaccine (FluMist)?

This type of flu vaccine (brand name: FluMist) is given as a nasal spray instead of an injection.  Healthy children over the age of 2 can get the nasal flu vaccine.  If your child has a chronic condition or illness, you should talk to your doctor to find out if the nasal flu vaccine is appropriate.  The vaccine is given in 1 or 2 doses.  Each dose is a squirt in each nostril.

  • If your child is under the age of 9 and has had a flu vaccine before, he or she will only need 1 dose.
  • If your child is under the age of 9 and has not had the flu vaccine before, he or she will need 2 doses spaced at least 4 weeks apart.

These types of flu vaccines are not covered by all provincial or regional health plans, which means you may have to pay for it.

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Who should not get the nasal flu vaccine?

  • Children under 2 years of age (vaccine may cause wheezing).
  • Those who are pregnant and those whose immune system is weak.  It is a live (weakened) virus vaccine.
  • People who have to take acetylsalicylic acid (ASA or aspirin) on a daily basis.
  • People with severe asthma who have been treated with steroids in the past 7 days or who have had severe wheezing (vaccines can make wheezing worse).

These people should get the injection vaccine.

Source: Centres For Disease Control and Prevention