Influenza is a respiratory infection caused primarily by influenza A and B viruses. In Canada, influenza generally occurs each year in the late fall and winter months. Symptoms typically include the sudden onset of high fever, chills, sore throat, cough and myalgia. Other common symptoms include headache, loss of appetite, fatigue, and coryza. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea may also occur, especially in children. Most people will recover within a week or 10 days, but some are at greater risk of more severe complications, such as pneumonia.
About the Vaccine
For a complete list of the different types of influenza vaccine available in Canada, see the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) statement on seasonal influenza vaccine.
Both inactivated and live attenuated influenza vaccines are authorized for use in Canada; some are trivalent formulations (protecting against three strains of the virus) and some are quadrivalent formulations (protecting against four strains). Influenza vaccine is safe and well-tolerated. Influenza vaccine cannot cause influenza illness because the inactivated vaccines do not contain live virus and the viruses in the live attenuated vaccine are weakened. For more information regarding guidelines for use and contraindications against receipt of influenza vaccine, see Section VII of the Immunization Manual.
For more information regarding the quadrivalent influenza vaccines, see the Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine Q & A.
Inactivated influenza vaccine: The inactivated influenza vaccine is made of killed influenza viruses and is approved for those 6 months and older. The inactivated influenza vaccine is administered by IM injection. For more information on the intended use by age group of influenza vaccines, see Section VII of the Immunization Manual.
Live attenuated influenza vaccine: The live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) is made from weakened influenza viruses. It is given as an intranasal spray into both nostrils. It is approved for use in individuals 2 to 59 years of age and, in BC, is publicly funded for children and youth 2 to 17 years of age inclusive. LAIV is the preferred vaccine for healthy children 2 to 8 years of age because it may provide better protection in young children than the inactivated influenza vaccine given by injection. For more information on the intended use by age group of influenza vaccines, see Section VII of the Immunization Manual.
Who should receive the influenza vaccine?
NACI recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older receives the influenza vaccine, with rare exception. However, it is especially important that certain individuals are vaccinated, including those who are at high risk of serious illness from the flu (such as young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with certain medical conditions) and those able to transmit or spread influenza to those at high risk. For a complete list of those for whom influenza vaccine is recommended and provided free in BC, see Section VII of the Immunization Manual, beginning page 31.
The influenza vaccine is usually given as 1 dose. Children under 9 years of age who have never received the seasonal influenza vaccine require 2 doses of the vaccine, given 4 weeks apart. The second dose of seasonal influenza vaccine improves the immune response, as children in this age group are less likely to have been exposed to an influenza virus in the past. Children under 9 years of age who have previously received one or more doses of seasonal influenza vaccine should receive on dose of influenza vaccine in subsequent seasons. For further information, see Section VII of the Immunization Manual.
The seasonal influenza vaccine is the best way to protect against influenza. How well the vaccine works varies from season to season. It depends on how well matched the influenza vaccine is with the viruses circulating during the season and on the health and age status of the person being vaccinated. When the influenza vaccine is well matched with the circulating viruses, it prevents influenza in about 6 out of 10 healthy adults who receive the inactivated influenza vaccine and about 8 out of 10 children who receive the live attenuated influenza vacccine. For further infomation on the seasonal influenza vaccine effectiveness and immunogenicity, see the NACI statement on seasonal influenza vaccine.
More Information on Influenza