Flu shot

A flu shot is the best way to protect people who are at a high risk of developing flu-related complications. Your pharmacist-owner affiliated with Accès pharma now offers a flu vaccination service (service availability varies by pharmacy). Find out why getting a flu shot is important and how to protect yourself against the influenza virus. 

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Why should I get a flu shot? 

People often mistake the flu for the common cold, although flu symptoms are generally worse than cold symptoms. In fact, the flu, which affects 3 to 11% of the general population each year, can interfere with your regular routine for more than a week. Moreover, the influenza virus (flu) spreads very fast. Symptoms usually appear the day after catching the virus and these can last up to 10 days, and even longer in children. The virus survives on hands, in feces and on hard surfaces for many hours. 

Common complications from the flu include sinus and ear infections, dehydration and pneumonia. The flu can also lead to muscle inflammation, heart problems and nervous system problems in vulnerable people.  

Can I avoid getting the flu without a vaccine?

A flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and the most vulnerable people against complications from the flu. In fact, this respiratory infection can lead to serious complications, including death. In Canada, there are an estimated 12,200 flu-related hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths every year, mainly among people with weakened immune systems. Combined with pneumonia, the flu was the country’s sixth leading cause of death in 2018.

In addition to the vaccine, some prevention measures can help reduce the risk of catching or spreading the flu virus, such as 

• Washing your hands often, especially before or after touching your eyes, nose or mouth. 

• Cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces and objects. The virus can be eliminated with water and soap, but you can also use a bleach cleaning solution that kills germs.  

• Sneezing and coughing into your upper sleeve to prevent the virus from getting into the air or onto your hands.  

• Immediately disposing of used tissues so that others do not touch them.  

• Avoiding any close contact with anyone who has  the flu. If possible, stay at least 3 feet apart.   

• Staying at home if you have the flu (especially in the first three or four days) to avoid spreading germs to other people. If you have a fever, stay at home for at least 24 hours after your fever has come down, because resting will help you recover more quickly.   

• If you are sick, avoid visiting the elderly or people who have a chronic disease. 

Who should get a flu shot? 

It is recommended that all Canadians over the age of 6 months get a flu shot, especially people with chronic diseases or people who are at high risk for complications, unless there are contraindications to the vaccine. If you have any concerns, contact your pharmacist to check if you can get a flu shot. 

Those who are at a higher risk of developing flu complications, such as pregnant women, people aged 75 and over, and people with certain chronic diseases can get a flu shot for free. A person who is in close contact with someone who is in a high-risk group, such as a health care worker or caregiver, can also get a free flu shot.

Can you get the flu from the vaccine? 

The flu shot is not a live vaccine. So, it’s impossible to catch the flu from being vaccinated.

After getting the vaccine, you may have a few side effects that are much milder than flu-related symptoms. Here are some common side effects: 

  • Redness and/or soreness at the injection site 
  • Muscle pain
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Fever, chills
  • Sore throat, cough

The flu spreads from person to person by droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. You can catch the flu by inhaling or touching these droplets, which can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours, and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth before washing your hands.  People with the flu seem to be most contagious in the first three to four days after their illness begins, which is when they tend to cough or sneeze the most, but they can be contagious for up to a week. 

If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact your pharmacist-owner affiliated with Accès pharma. 

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

Like any other vaccine, the flu shot causes your body to develop antibodies. However, studies have shown that these antibodies decline within a year of getting the vaccine, especially in seniors and people with a weakened immune system. 

Moreover, the flu vaccine’s composition must be reviewed each year. As explained in our immunization article, vaccines work by imitating an infection and helping the body to raise an army of antibodies that are ready to fight the infection the next time it occurs. However, flu viruses are constantly changing. So, the vaccine is updated every year to include virus strains that are the most likely to circulate during the upcoming flu season.  

This also explains why the vaccine’s effectiveness varies from one year to the next. 

The flu shot usually takes two weeks to become fully effective and it protects you against the flu for about 6 months. There are very few preconditions that should prevent you from getting a flu shot. However, avoid going to the pharmacy if you have a fever and consult a health professional, if necessary. 

How effective is the flu vaccine? 

As with any other vaccine, the flu shot effectiveness depends on: 

  • Your age and health condition (whether or not you have a weakened immune system)
  • How closely related the virus strains contained in the vaccine are to strains that are currently circulating

So, the flu vaccine isn’t 100% effective.

When the vaccine contains virus strains that match those that are currently circulating, it can prevent 40% to 60% of flu cases in healthy people.

How do I get a flu shot?  

A flu vaccine is easier to get than ever. The vaccine can be administered by a health professional who is an accredited immunizer such as a nurse or a pharmacist. In fact, pharmacists across Quebec can now administer the flu vaccine to people aged 2 years and older.

They are therefore joining pharmacists in all the other Canadian provinces (and in many countries throughout the world) to administer vaccines on a daily basis, following training including a CPR course. This measure has led to a considerable increase in vaccination rates, and in turn, ensures that the population is better protected against the flu.  

Canada’s current goal is to vaccinate 80% of people at higher risk of complications from the flu. Although vaccination is one of the most effective, safe and socially beneficial health measures we can take, only 31% of people without chronic medical condition, 43% of adults with a chronic medical condition, and 70% of people aged 65 and up were vaccinated in 2019. 

If you have any questions about the flu shot, talk to your pharmacist-owner affiliated with Accès pharma. Your pharmacy’s flexible business hours certainly make it easier to benefit from this preventive measure. See if this service is available at your pharmacy. 

This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice and pharmacist-owners affiliated with Accès cannot be held responsible for this information. The information was true and accurate at the time of publication, but it is subject to change. 

Frequently asked questions

You got more questions?

  • The best solution is to consult your pharmacist. They can help you clarify your symptoms and accurately identify the illness and provide you with advice and treatment options or, if necessary, refer you to the best healthcare resource. 

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  • Adults

    • COVID-19

    • diphtheria

    • influenza (flu)

    • hepatitis A

    • hepatitis B

    • meningococcal disease

    • mumps

    • pneumococcal disease

    • polio

    • measles

    • rubella

    • tetanus

    • pertussis (whooping cough)

    • varicella (chickenpox)

    • HPV (human papillomavirus)

    • shingles

    Pregnant Women
    • pertussis (whooping cough)

    • influenza (flu)

    Note: Live vaccines against influenza (or, for example, against measles, mumps, and rubella) are generally contraindicated during pregnancy.

    60 years and older
    • influenza (flu)

    • shingles

    • pneumococcal disease

    • Travelers (depending on the destination, sometimes mandatory)

    • cholera

    • Japanese encephalitis

    • yellow fever

    • hepatitis A

    • hepatitis B

    • meningococcal disease

    • rabies

    • typhoid

    Do you need to get vaccinated?

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