The flu vaccine is the most important measure you can take to protect yourself from the flu. It is recommended for everyone aged 6 months or older unless there is a reason it should not be given. The flu vaccination is given every year in the fall. It is needed annually since it contains protection against a new set of viruses every year, plus the immunity you get from the vaccination decreases over time.
The flu vaccination is especially recommended for people who are at higher risk and those who have regular contact with people at higher risk. People at higher risk from the flu include:
- People with health conditions such as lung diseases (e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma)
- Very young children and seniors
- Pregnant women
- Indigenous peoples
- Residents of nursing homes and other chronic care facilities
Getting the flu vaccination also helps reduce the risk that you will spread the flu to others in your family and community who may be at a higher risk of serious complications. The more people who get the flu vaccination in your community, the less risk to everyone of getting the flu. This is called “herd immunity” or “community immunity”.
Pneumonia can be a complication of getting the flu. Therefore, the flu vaccination helps reduce the risk of both the flu and pneumonia infections.
If you are pregnant, getting the flu vaccine can reduce the risk that your baby will get the flu after it is born.
In individuals aged 65 and older, the immune system response to the flu vaccination is not as strong as it is in younger people. Those aged 65 and older may get more benefit from the high-dose flu vaccination, which has four times the usual dose.
As of the 2018/19 flu season, the high-dose flu vaccine is available to seniors 65+ for free in Ontario.
FLU OR FALSE?
Every flu season (which generally occurs in late fall and winter), a worrying number of us come down with the influenza virus. The nasty bug can cause serious, even fatal complications (not to mention the misery of a fever, chills, congestion, and body aches). To makes matters worse, there are still many dangerous misconceptions and rumors about the flu flying around. Make sure you can separate myth from truth. Arm yourself with the straight facts about the flu, the flu shot, and what you can do to avoid catching it.
Influenza (flu) and pneumonia combine to be the 7th leading cause of death in Canada1. People affected by lung conditions (e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis) are at a higher risk from flu and pneumonia infections.
One of the most effective ways to help prevent flu and pneumonia infections is with vaccinations.