By Nicole Garcia
Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Influenza spreads easily from person to person through coughing, sneezing, and face-to-face contact. The virus can also spread when a person touches tiny droplets from a cough or sneeze and then touches their eyes, mouth, or nose before washing their hands.
Immunization is the best way to protect against influenza. When you or your child get immunized, you help protect others as well by reducing the spread of the influenza virus.
Getting a flu shot every year is important because the flu viruses can change over time. The annual shot includes the strains expected to circulate in the upcoming season based on close monitoring of viruses. The effectiveness of the flu shot can decrease over time, so receiving a flu vaccine each year helps to keep you protected. The flu shot helps to protect you if you later get exposed to the virus by helping to prevent you from getting very sick from flu-related complications, such as pneumonia, and protect people close to you because, when vaccinated, you’re less likely to spread the virus to others.
Some people are at higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu than others. These include young children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with certain medical conditions. For these individuals, getting a flu shot is especially important.
It’s also important to note that getting a flu shot is safe for most people. While some people may experience mild side effects after getting vaccinated, such as soreness at the injection site or a low-grade fever, these side effects are usually mild and go away on their own within a few days.
Everyone 6 months and older can get a flu vaccine in B.C. for free. It’s especially important to get a flu vaccine if you’re under 5 years or over 65 years, pregnant, living in long-term care or assisted living, immunocompromised or have a chronic illness. Enhanced vaccines are available for seniors to help create a stronger immune response.
For people 6 months of age and older, all seasonal influenza vaccines, including live-attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV), may be given at the same time as, or at any time before or after, administration of other vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines.
Getting a Flu and COVID-19 vaccines protects you and also your community and our overstretched health-care system.
You can book your flu vaccine in the fall and winter and the COVID-19 vaccine through the Get Vaccinated system or by contacting your health-care provider or pharmacist.
Please consult with your doctor for any queries and or concerns about vaccination in British Columbia.