Flu (Influenza)

Where can I get the flu shot?

The annual flu shot campaign will begin on November 1, 2018. Get information about the dates and locations of vaccination clinics.

 

Flu vaccine 

How a vaccine works

Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself against certain serious diseases. When a person is vaccinated, their immune cells start to produce antibodies that will be stored in memory in case the virus that actually causes the disease ever enters the body. This is a natural protective reaction that takes effect within 10-14 days of receiving the vaccine. Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent certain infectious diseases, such as the flu, which is also known as influenza.

Contrary to what some people believe, the vaccine does not cause the flu. It is perfectly safe, and most symptoms that occur after vaccination are mild and short-lived.

An important yearly vaccine

The annual flu shot campaign will begin on November 1, 2016. A new vaccine is given each year depending on which viruses are circulating that winter (they change every year). The vaccine is effective against the flu strains that are most likely to be circulating during the winter, including the pandemic influenza A H1N1 virus.

Recent studies have shown that children aged 6-23 months and healthy seniors between the ages of 60 and 74 have a risk of flu-related hospitalization and death comparable to that of the general healthy population. The flu shot is therefore no longer recommended for these people. For the 2018 vaccination campaign, people in these age groups who want to be vaccinated can get the vaccine for free. However, starting in 2019, the vaccine will no longer be free for these individuals.

 

 A free vaccine for certain groups

►►►The vaccine is free for vulnerable persons and their family members◄◄◄ 

Everyone else can get the vaccine for a small cost. It is available at certain CLSCs, Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux (CISSSs), certain pharmacies, and several medical clinics in the Montérégie region.

Vulnerable populations

The Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux offers the flu shot for free to certain vulnerable populations who are considered at greater risk of developing complications. These include:

  • pregnant women in their 2nd and 3rd trimester;
  • people aged 6 months and over with a chronic illness (including pregnant women, regardless of trimester);
  • seniors over age 75;
  • as well as anyone in close contact with people at risk of complications.

Information sheets

How can I protect my baby?

While infants under six months old are considered at risk, the vaccine is not recommended for them, because an infant’s immune system does not allow for a good response to the vaccine. That’s why it’s so important that parents and relatives who are likely to spread the infection to the baby get vaccinated. In fact, people who have had the flu shot are actually protecting people who haven’t by not spreading the disease to them.

 

Flu prevention and symptoms

How can I prevent the flu and other seasonal viruses?

Hand-washing is a good way to reduce the risk of catching the flu and other respiratory viruses, and to avoid contaminating the people around you. As often as necessary, you should:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water (no need for antibacterial soap).
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • If you don’t have a tissue, cough into the crook of your elbow or your upper arm.
  • Throw the tissues in the garbage, and wash your hands.
  • Avoid visiting seniors or people with a chronic illness when you’re sick.

Flu symptoms and complications

The flu is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by a virus. Flu symptoms include fever, muscle pain, fatigue, dry cough, sneezing, aches and pains, headache, and sore throat—basically, your whole body will hurt for several days. The flu is contagious and can be very serious, even for people who are normally very fit and healthy. The flu can cause bronchitis or pneumonia. It can also lead to serious complications in young children, seniors, and people with a chronic illness, which is why the vaccine is free for people with a higher risk of complications. Each year, the flu is linked to several hospitalizations and deaths in Québec.

Comparative table: Influenza (flu) and common cold

The flu and the common cold are both respiratory tract infections. They have similar symptoms, which is why they are often confused with one another. However, the common cold is more frequent and less serious than the flu.

The symptoms and their severity can vary depending on the person’s age and health condition. 

Symptoms

Influenza (flu)

Cold

Fever

Common

Temperature between 38°C and 40°C (100.4°F and 104°F)

Sudden onset

Rare

Cough

Common

Sudden onset

Common

Mild or moderate

Headache

Common

Sometimes severe

Rare

Aches and pains

Common

Sometimes severe

Rare

Fatigue

Common

Intense

Duration: a few days, sometimes longer

Common

Mild

Nausea and vomiting

Common, especially in children

Often accompanied by diarrhea and abdominal pain in children

Common

Mild

Runny nose and nasal congestion

Rare

Common

Sneezing

Rare

Common

Sore throat

Rare

Common

Chest pain

Occasional

Intense

Occasional

Mild or moderate

Source: Québec government’s Portail santé mieux-être

 

When to consult?

Decision-making tool of the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux

 

Pneumococcal infections

Pneumococcus is a bacterium found in the respiratory tract. A pneumococcal infection can cause pneumonia, meningitis (infection of membranes that surround the brain), or bacteremia (blood infection), and possible complications include deafness, permanent brain damage, and death.

There are two vaccines that target pneumococcal infections and their complications, one of which is recommended and free for seniors aged 65 and older, and for people aged 2-64 with a medical condition that increases their risk of severe pneumococcal infections. Ask your doctor or local CLSC.

For more information, visit the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux website.

 

Finding information online

To make an informed decision about vaccination, you need credible, accurate information! Finding reliable information online is possible, provided you know which websites you can trust. However, the credible websites often get lost amidst those with absolutely no scientific basis. The websites of government organizations and recognized national medical associations are reliable sources of information. Remember that you can also get information about vaccination from your doctor or your Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux (CISSS). Here are a few sources of information we recommend.