What is the influenza vaccine?
The influenza vaccine (flu shot) protects against a virus that causes the flu.
Vaccines can provide protection against a single disease, or can be made to provide protection against more than one disease. Vaccines that provide protection against more than one disease are called combined vaccines. Influenza vaccine is only available as a single vaccine format.
Who should get the influenza vaccine?
In general, everyone aged six months or older should get the flu shot every year. Children, adolescents and adults all need to receive the influenza vaccine at regular intervals to have ongoing protection. The recommended time to get the vaccine is October to mid-November.
People who should get the vaccine as soon as possible and are at higher risk, every year are:
- seniors 65 years and older
- people with a weak immune system (the body has a harder time fighting infections)
- people with long-term health conditions
- pregnant women and families that are expecting a baby during the flu season
- children between six months to under five years of age
- people who live in long-term care homes
- health care providers
- people living or working with children under the age of five
To find out more about when individuals need the influenza vaccine, see the Ontario Immunization Schedule (Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care).
Who should not get the influenza vaccine?
- People who have had serious allergic reaction to any ingredient in the vaccine or to a previous dose of the vaccine itself should not receive the influenza vaccine.
Your health care provider will ask you questions about your health before giving you any vaccine. This will help them identify allergies you might have and safely manage potential allergic reactions.
What are the possible side effects of the influenza vaccine?
You could have mild side effects after being vaccinated, but they usually go away in one to two days. Some people can be allergic to the vaccine, just like they might have a food or medication allergy.
Learn more about common vaccine side effects and what to do about them.
Is the influenza vaccine required to attend school, daycare or to work in certain settings?
No. Children don’t have to be immunized against this disease to attend school or a licensed day care in Ontario (Immunization of School Pupils Act, Child Care and Early Years Act). However, this vaccine may be required in certain workplaces.
Access and update your immunization records.
What else should you know about the influenza vaccine?
This vaccine is publicly funded, meaning it is free of charge for those who need it. No matter where you get the vaccine in Ontario, there is no cost (in a hospital, walk-in clinic, health care provider’s office or public health unit).
For a list of publicly funded vaccines in Ontario, see the Ontario Immunization Schedule.
Risks and benefits
Talk to your health care provider of getting vaccinated if you have special health conditions or concerns. Learn more about special considerations before being vaccinated.
Where can you get the influenza vaccine?
- Public Health offers this vaccine at one of our immunization clinics.
- You may also be able to get vaccinated at your doctor’s office, a walk-in clinic or community health centre. Appointments may be required.
I received my flu shot last year. Do I need it again?
It is recommended that the influenza (flu) vaccine be given annually. This is because flu viruses change often and our body’s immunity decreases between flu seasons.
Does the flu vaccine protect me against COVID-19?
No, the influenza vaccine will not protect against coronaviruses, like COVID-19. However, the flu vaccine is an important part of protecting yourself from influenza and will help keep you healthy. By keeping people healthy, the vaccine also helps reduce the burden on the health care system and ensures health care resources remain available. This is especially important this year as we enter flu season during the pandemic. Practising COVID-safe behaviors, like distancing, wearing a face covering, and washing your hands, remains the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Learn more about COVID safety.
Why is it important to get the flu shot if it does not protect against COVID-19?
Getting your flu shot helps protect you, and those around you from getting sick with the flu. Having fewer sick people in our community helps reduce the burden on the health care system and ensures health care resources remain available and accessible. This is especially important this year during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For more information:
- Contact us.
- See our frequently asked questions or send us your question.
- See our list of helpful websites for information about vaccination.