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Flu Shots

A picture of flu-fighting fruits, veggies, and other edibles on a table.

The flu vaccine: Your questions answered

The flu is more than just a cold. The influenza virus can cause fevers, chills, weakness, muscle aches, a stuffy nose, coughing, joint pain, headaches, and more. Flu symptoms can leave people feeling miserable for days, even weeks.

Beyond being an awful experience, the flu can be dangerous, too. Around 12,000 Canadians are hospitalized with the flu every year. The flu can cause serious health complications, including heart problems, pneumonia, kidney issues, and more.

The flu shot can help prevent you from getting the flu, or lessen your symptoms if you do get infected with the influenza virus. Getting your flu shot also greatly reduces the chance you’ll pass on the virus to someone else, including those who might get very sick from the flu. By getting your flu shot, you’re protecting not only your own health, but also the health of those around you.

Our pharmacies offer flu shots by appointment and on a walk-in basis. Walk-in flu shots may not be available at all times, so we recommend you book ahead, during flu season.

Who should get the flu shot? 

Experts recommend the flu shot for all Canadians who are six months of age or older, with rare exceptions. For example, people who have had an allergic reaction to the flu shot in the past, or who may have a severe allergy to an ingredient in the seasonal flu vaccine should talk to their family healthcare provider before getting the flu shot. Recent evidence has demonstrated that the flu shot is considered safe for people who are allergic to eggs (it is important to declare any allergies at the time of vaccination).

Flu vaccine options include a shot that is injected into the arm or a nasal spray. The nasal spray flu vaccine is not appropriate for adults 50 years and older, pregnant people, and those with certain medical conditions. Your pharmacist can help you decide which type of vaccine is best for you.

The risk of influenza complications and hospitalization is higher in young children and older adults, pregnant people, and people with certain medical conditions. For people who are pregnant, the flu not only poses a risk to the pregnant person, but it also increases the risk to the unborn baby. An influenza infection in pregnancy increases the risk of preterm labour, miscarriage, and certain birth defects. Getting the flu shot not only reduces these risks to the fetus during pregnancy, but it also provides protection from the flu to the baby in their first few months of life.

Health Canada notes it is especially important for the following groups to get the flu shot:

  • Adults who are 65 years and older
  • Children between six months and five years of age
  • Children six to 18 months old who are undergoing long periods of acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) treatment
  • Indigenous peoples
  • Pregnant people
  • People who live with chronic health conditions, including heart disease, immune-compromising conditions, lung disease, kidney disorders, neurological or neurodevelopmental diseases, respiratory illnesses, diabetes, cancer, and more
  • People who live in nursing homes or other long-term-care facilities

Why do I need to get a flu shot every year?

The flu vaccine is updated every year because the flu virus mutates. Scientists test to see which strains of influenza are spreading globally and adapt the flu shot to work against these strains. The flu vaccine protects you against both influenza A and B.

Another reason to get your flu shot every year is that your immunity to the flu vaccine fades over time. After you get the flu shot, your body creates antibodies to fight the flu. But these antibodies gradually decrease over the months following your vaccination. This means last year’s vaccine isn’t likely to protect you this year.

When should I get a flu vaccine?

The best time to get a flu shot is in September or October, so that you’re protected from the beginning of the flu season. If you miss this window, it is still worthwhile to get the vaccine, as the flu season lasts until the spring.

Keep in mind it takes two weeks for your immune response to fully kick in and for the flu vaccine to take full effect.

Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as a flu vaccine?

Yes, both children and adults can get a flu shot at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccine and any other vaccine. There are some exceptions if you are receiving the nasal-spray type.

Where can I get a flu shot?

We offer flu vaccines for children and adults. To find our closest pharmacy, click here.

Can my child get a flu vaccine at a pharmacy?

We offer flu shots for children starting from six months, two years, four years, or five years of age, depending on the province.

*Subject to availability. Pharmacists can administer flu shots to children aged five and older in Alta., Sask, and P.E.I; four and up in B.C.; two and up in Ont., Man., N.B., and Nfld; and six months and up in N.S..