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Influenza Immunization

Common questions about influenza immunization

​​ How is the influenza vaccine given?

​The influenza (sometimes called the flu) vaccine is given:

  • by an injection (needle)
  • as a nasal (in the nose) spray

The injection is free. The nasal spray may be available from a pharmacist, but you need to pay for it. Talk to your pharmacist to find out.​

Is the influenza vaccine safe?

Yes. In Canada, vaccines are tested in the laboratory and in people (clinical trials). Vaccines must pass a strict licensing process with the federal government before they can be used. Once a vaccine has been approved for use, every batch that is made at the same time (called a lot) is tested for safety and quality. Canada and other countries also continually monitor the safety of vaccines being used.

You can’t get influenza disease from the influenza vaccine.

If I was immunized last year, do I need to get immunized again this year?

Yes. You need to get the influenza vaccine every year. Influenza viruses change ever year, and new influenza viruses appear each year. When viruses change, so do the vaccines.

The World Health Organization identifies the strains of influenza that they predict will be the most common during the upcoming season. This information is used to develop the vaccine to protect against these strains.

The immunity you get from your vaccine gets lower over time. This means you need to get immunized every year to stay protected even if you've been immunized against the same strain before.

To protect yourself against influenza, get immunized every year. Make it part of your fall routine.

I’m in Alberta, but I’m not an Alberta resident—can I get immunized?

If you live, work, or go to school in Alberta, you can get immunized for free at any of the Alberta Health Services influenza immunization clinics. For example, you can get the vaccine for free if you:

  • usually live in Nova Scotia but are working in Alberta
  • live in Ontario but are going to school in Alberta

You can find an immunization clinic near you at Immunization Clinic Schedule.

If I’m healthy, why do I need to get immunized?

Getting immunized is one of the best ways to prevent influenza. It’s a good idea for everyone in Alberta to get immunized, even healthy people that aren’t at risk of complications (serious health problems) from influenza. If you have influenza, you can be sick for 5 to 10 days, but it can take weeks to fully recover.

By protecting yourself, you help protect people around you who are at risk of complications from influenza. If more people are protected, fewer people will get sick from influenza.

I don’t usually get influenza—do I really need to get immunized?

It’s a good idea for everyone to get immunized for influenza every year. Influenza vaccine is the best way to lower the chances that you will get influenza and spread it to others.

I had H1N1 disease or influenza disease before—do I still need to be immunized?

Even if you’ve had influenza disease (including H1N1) before, it’s still important to get immunized every year. The strains going around this year may be different than the one you had before.

I’m pregnant or breastfeeding—can I get immunized?

If you’re pregnant (or planning to get pregnant), it’s safe to get immunized with the inactivated influenza vaccine (injection). The live influenza virus nasal spray vaccine is not recommended if you're pregnant.

If you’re breastfeeding, both the injectable and the live influenza virus nasal spray vaccines are safe.

I have a latex allergy—can I get the vaccine?

If you have a latex allergy, it’s safe to get the vaccine. There’s no latex in the vaccine, the packaging, or the syringe.

Can I get the vaccine if I take medicine?

Yes, it’s safe to get the inactivated vaccine (injection) with most types of medicine. Talk to your healthcare provider at the immunization site about the medicines you’re taking.

Can I get the vaccine at the same time as other vaccines?

Yes, you can get the inactivated influenza vaccine (injection) at the same time or any time before or after other inactivated or live vaccines.

Can I donate blood if I get the influenza vaccine?

You don't have to wait before you can donate blood.

If you’ve already donated blood, you don’t have to wait to get the influenza vaccine.

How long does it take for the vaccine to start working?

It takes about 2 weeks after getting the vaccine to be protected from influenza. You can be protected for up to 1 year. The vaccine won’t protect you from colds or other respiratory (lung and breathing system) illnesses that aren't caused by influenza.

How well does the vaccine work?

How well the influenza vaccine works is different each influenza season. A new vaccine is made every year to protect against the 3 or 4 influenza viruses that are most likely to make you sick. Even when the vaccine does not exactly match the viruses that spread where you live, it can still help protect you from getting influenza or getting very sick from it. ​

Research shows that the vaccine can lower:

  • complications in people that are high-risk
  • pneumonia, hospital admissions, and deaths in older adults
  • doctor appointments, hospital admissions, and deaths in high-risk people between ages 18 and 64 years

Current as of: September 30, 2021

Author: Provincial Immunization Program, Alberta Health Services​​