JAB. JAB. JAB. Two or three strains of the flu make the rounds every year. Not only is the viral infection vicious, it can be lethal in otherwise healthy people. Experts say the best way to guard against the seasonal scourge and influenza-related pneumonia is to get the flu shot. But it isn’t a one-and-done deal. Influenza is cunning and mutates every year to dodge last year’s vaccine. That’s why anyone over six months old who lives, works or attends school in Ontario should get an up-to-date shot each year.
Influenza (flu) Vaccination
The flu vaccination is the most important measure you can take to protect yourself from the flu. It is recommended for everyone aged 6 months or older unless there is a reason it should not be given. The flu vaccination is given every year in the fall. It is needed annually since it contains protection against a new set of viruses every year, plus the immunity you get from the vaccination decreases over time.
The flu vaccination is especially recommended for people who are at higher risk and those who have regular contact with people at higher risk. People at higher risk from the flu include:
- People with health conditions such as lung diseases (e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma)
- Very young children and seniors
- Pregnant women
- Indigenous peoples
- Residents of nursing homes and other chronic care facilities
Getting the flu vaccination also helps reduce the risk that you will spread the flu to others in your family and community who may be at a higher risk of serious complications. The more people who get the flu vaccination in your community, the less risk to everyone of getting the flu. This is called “herd immunity” or “community immunity”.
Pneumonia can be a complication of getting the flu. Therefore, the flu vaccination helps reduce the risk of both the flu and pneumonia infections.
If you are pregnant, getting the flu vaccination can reduce the risk that your baby will get the flu after it is born.
In individuals aged 65 and older, the immune system response to the flu vaccination is not as strong as it is in younger people. Those aged 65 and older may get more benefit from the high-dose flu vaccination, which has four times the usual dose.
As of the 2018/19 flu season, the high-dose flu vaccine is available to seniors 65+ for free in Alberta.