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This is no time to catch the flu!

This is no time to catch the flu!

Influenza is caused by a common and easily-spread virus, and for some, has significant health consequences. Rates of influenza have been unusually low during the past two flu seasons (2019-20 and 2020-21), thanks to public health measures aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, that reduced exposure to influenza may leave the population more vulnerable to infection.1

Already this year has seen an unusual spring-time surge of influenza infections, due in part to the lifting of pandemic restrictions such as masking and social distancing.2 At the same time, COVID-19 infection rates are rebounding,3 raising concerns about possible co-infection with both respiratory viruses, and the added burden on our already strained healthcare system.1

Vaccination is an individual choice every one of us can make to protect ourselves and our families from influenza and the health risks associated with it. The Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) continues to recommend an annual influenza vaccine for anyone 6 months of age and older who does not have contraindications to the vaccine. In particular, they recommend the flu vaccination for those at greater risk for severe illness and complications “to reduce the risk of severe illness that could potentially arise from co-infection with SARS-CoV-2 and influenza.”

The grown-ups

While healthy adults likely won’t suffer major consequences from contracting the flu, infection can be fatal for vulnerable populations such as newborns, seniors, and people with certain chronic health conditions. NACI strongly recommends influenza vaccination for high-risk groups such as people of any age living in nursing homes and other long-term facilities, those with compromised immune systems or conditions such as asthma, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, those age 65 or older, and Indigenous people. In addition, vaccination is advised for people capable of transmitting the flu to anyone at high risk of influenza-related complications, such as those described above.4

Moms to be

Getting the flu during pregnancy can lead to pneumonia, or cause a woman to go into labour prematurely.6 Women expecting a baby should be vaccinated against the flu, according to NACI.5

Having the flu shot during pregnancy will protect your newborn against influenza for his or her first 6 months.7 Once babies reach the age of 6 months, they can receive their own flu shot, which is specifically recommended by NACI for all children from 6 months old to 5 years.4

The kids

School kids spend most of their day in close contact with other children, increasing the risk of transmission. In fact, children under age 16 accounted for half of the 438 influenza-associated hospitalizations reported for the 2021-22 season to date. 2Vaccination can reduce a child’s risk of flu-related hospitalization by about 75%.8

The elders

Anyone over the age of 65 can benefit from the flu and pneumococcal vaccines which can safely be administered together. Chronic conditions that can come with age leave seniors especially vulnerable to the flu and potentially serious complications, such as bacterial pneumonia.3 This flu season, being vaccinated is more important than ever – for every member of your family.

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This information should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your doctor. There may be variations in treatment that your physician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

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  1. McCauley J et al. The importance of influenza vaccination during the COVID-19 pandemic. Influenza Other Respir Viruses. 2022 Jan;16(1):3-6.
  2. Influenza cases in Canada see rare spring surge amid eased COVID-19 restrictions. Published June 7, 2022.
  3. Tracking Coronavirus in Canada: Latest Map and Case Count. New York Times. Updated July 22, 2022.
  4. Canadian Immunization Guide Chapter on Influenza and Statement on Seasonal Influenza Vaccine for 2022–2023.
  5. Flu (influenza): For health professionals. Last updated 2022-02-22.
  6. Influenza and pregnancy.
  7. Flu & Pregnancy. Page last reviewed: August 25, 2022
  8. Jill M. Ferdinands et al. Effectiveness of Influenza Vaccine Against Life-threatening RT-PCR-confirmed Influenza Illness in US Children, 2010–2012, The Journal of Infectious Diseases, Volume 210, Issue 5, 1 September 2014, Pages 674–683.