Influenza and the Flu Shot FAQs

What is the flu?

Influenza, or the “flu”, is a respiratory illness that spreads from person to person. Most people recover from the flu in 7 to 10 days, but infants, children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with chronic health conditions are at greater risk of serious complications such as pneumonia.

What are the symptoms of the flu?

Influenza symptoms range from unpleasant to very serious. Symptoms usually appear 1 to 4 days after you’ve been exposed to the virus. You can be contagious even if you don’t show symptoms.

Symptoms of influenza include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Runny eyes
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Extreme weakness and tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea or vomiting (in children)

When can I get a flu shot?

  • Those most at risk should get the flu shot early. This includes children under 5, adults 65 and older, pregnant women and those with chronic (or immune supressing) medical conditions.
  • If you or someone in your family meets one of these criteria, contact your family doctor or come to one of our clinics scheduled in October and November.
  • Flu clinic dates can be found on our website or on our Clinics and Classes Calendar.
  • You can also check with your doctor or pharmacist to see if the flu vaccine is available.

Am I considered high-risk?

Individuals who fall under these categories are encouraged to see their healthcare provider or come to one of our high-risk clinics to get a flu shot.

  • Children ages 6 months to 5 years old
  • Adults ages 65 and older
  • Pregnant women
  • Those with a chronic illness or who are immunocompromised
  • People who are in contact with those at high-risk
  • Emergency services workers such as fire, EMS and police
  • People who work in the swine, poultry and animal shelter industries
  • Healthcare workers and other care providers
  • Child care workers

Is FluMist an option for my kids this year?

  • FluMist is not available anywhere in Canada this year. All flu shots will be given by injection.

Is the high-dose flu vaccine for adults 65 and older available? Where can I get it?

NOTE: It is important for seniors to get the flu shot that is available in their location without delay – both vaccines are effective and recommended for people 65 years and older.

  • Yes, adults 65 and older can get the high-dose senior’s vaccine from your doctor or from Public Health.
  • Call your doctor in advance if you want the high-dose flu vaccine because not all healthcare providers will have it this year.
  • High-dose is not available at pharmacies.

I am coming to Public Health for another appointment. Can I get a flu shot at the same time?

  • Yes, you can request a flu shot at your appointment. Or, you can attend one of our flu clinics.

Do I need to bring my health card to get a flu vaccine?

  • No, you do not need your health card if you come to Public Health.
  • You will need to bring it if you go to your pharmacist.

Where can I get the flu shot?

Ages 6 months up to 5 years old

  • Doctor’s office
  • Public Health

Ages 5 - 64 years

  • Doctor’s office
  • Public Health
  • Pharmacy

65 and older

  • Doctor’s office
  • Public Health
  • Pharmacy (only offer the standard flu vaccine, not the senior’s high-dose vaccine for adults 65 and older)

Which influenza vaccines are publicly funded for 2019?

  • Standard Quadrivalent Inactivated Influenza Vaccine (IIV4)
    • Injectable vaccine
    • Covers 4 strains (two influenza A viruses: A/H1N1 & A/H3N2 and two influenza B viruses: B/Colorado & B/Phuket)
    • For ages 6 months and older
  • High-Dose Trivalent Inactivated Influenza Vaccine (IIV3-HD)
    • Higher dose injectable vaccine
    • Covers 3 strains (two influenza A viruses: A/H1N1 & A/H3N2 and one influenza B virus: B/Colorado)
    • For ages 65 and older

What is the difference between the standard and high-dose senior’s flu vaccines?

  • They are both injectable influenza vaccines made to protect against the seasonal flu viruses. The high-dose vaccine for adults 65 and older contains four times the antigen (the part of the vaccine that helps your body build up protection against the flu) which helps create a stronger immune response and is intended to better protect older adults against the flu.

How effective is this year’s flu vaccine?

  • It is too early in the season to know the effectiveness. You can go online to the FluWatch website at to see weekly influenza reports.

Can I get the flu shot if I have an egg allergy?

  • Yes. You may talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.

How many doses of flu vaccine to I need?

  • Most people need only one dose each year.
  • Children ages 6 months to 8 years need two doses of vaccine at least 4 weeks apart if it is the first time they are receiving the influenza vaccine.

My child hates needles, what can I do?

  • Encourage your child to eat before their appointment.
  • Bring something to distract your child that they enjoy.
  • If your child is still breastfeeding, they can be breastfed during the immunization.
  • Wear short sleeves so the upper arm can be easily reached.
  • Topical numbing creams or gels can be helpful for some kids. Talk to your pharmacist about this option.

Does the flu vaccine work right away?

  • No, it takes 2 weeks for your system to develop antibodies that fight the flu. This is why it is best to be vaccinated early in the flu season.

What are the side effects of the flu vaccine?

  • Swelling, tenderness or redness where the needle was given
  • Minor muscle aches
  • Mild fever
  • Tiredness
  • Headache

Side effects can last up to 3 days.

What to do:

  • Put a clean, cold cloth over the sore area
  • Continue to move your arm as much as possible
  • Get a good night’s sleep

When to get immediate care:

See your doctor immediately or go to the nearest hospital emergency department if any of these symptoms develop:

  • Swollen mouth, face or throat
  • Hives, rash or itchy skin
  • Difficulty breathing, wheezing or chest tightness
  • Seizures or convulsions

Who should not get the influenza vaccine?

  • Anyone with a serious allergic reaction to a previous influenza vaccine
  • Anyone who had Guillain-Barré syndrome within 6 weeks of a previous vaccination
  • Anyone with an anaphylactic allergy to any component of the vaccine (with the exception of egg)
  • Children under 6 months of age

When is it too late to get vaccinated?

  • As long as influenza is still circulating in the community and there is still flu vaccine available, you can still get vaccinated.