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Influenza Immunization

Common Questions about Influenza Immunization

How is the influenza vaccine given?

The influenza vaccine is given by an injection or a nasal spray.

Is the influenza vaccine safe?

Yes. In Canada, vaccines undergo laboratory and field-testing. They must pass a strict licensing procedure with the federal government before they can be used. Once a vaccine has been approved for use, every lot is tested for safety and quality. 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 influenza vaccine every year because influenza viruses change from year to year. It’s not unusual for new influenza viruses to 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 decreases over time, which 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, if you usually live in Nova Scotia but are working in Alberta, or you live in Ontario but are going to university in Alberta, you can get the vaccine for free. 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 not at risk of complications. 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, less people will get sick from influenza.

I don’t normally 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 decrease the chances that you will get influenza and spread it to others.

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

Even if you have had influenza disease (including H1N1) before, it is still important to get immunized every year. The strains circulating 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). If you’re breastfeeding, it’s safe to get immunized with the inactivated influenza vaccine (injection) or the live influenza vaccine (nasal spray).

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

If you have a latex allergy, it’s safe to get the vaccine. There is 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) if you take most types of medicine. But, if you take antiviral medicine, the live influenza vaccine (nasal spray) might not work well or it may affect how your medicine works. If you take antiviral medicine, do not get the live influenza vaccine (nasal spray) until 48 hours (2 days) after you’ve stopped taking your medicine. If you get the live influenza vaccine, do not take antiviral medicine for 2 weeks unless your doctor tells you to. If you have any questions, talk to your doctor.

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

Yes, the inactivated influenza vaccine (injection) has a killed virus, which means it can be given at the same time as other vaccines. Pneumococcal vaccine or routine childhood vaccines are often given at the same time as the inactivated influenza vaccine.

Because the nasal spray influenza vaccine is a live vaccine, it’s important to tell the immunizing nurse if you (or your child) have had a live vaccine in the past 4 weeks or if you plan to get any other live vaccines. Live vaccines can affect each other if they aren’t given at the same time or spaced out as needed. Live vaccines include:

  • measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)
  • chicken pox (varicella)
  • yellow fever

Can I donate blood if I get the influenza vaccine?

If you get the inactivated influenza vaccine (injection), you have to wait 48 hours (2 days) before you can donate blood. If you get the live influenza vaccine (nasal), you don’t have to wait to donate blood.

If you’ve 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 illnesses not caused by influenza.

How well does the vaccine work?

How well the influenza vaccine works can vary widely from season to season. It also depends on the age and health of the person being immunized. When the influenza strains in the vaccine are the same as the strains in the community, influenza illness can be prevented in healthy adults and older children.

Research shows that the vaccine can decrease:

  • 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 18 and 64

My child got the nasal spray vaccine for the first dose, but now a second dose is needed and there isn’t any nasal spray vaccine left. What can I do?

If your child is eligible to get the influenza vaccine, it doesn’t matter which type is given. The nasal spray and injectable vaccines are interchangeable.

What if my child sneezes after getting the nasal spray vaccine or it’s only given in one nostril (e.g., struggles too much to give it in the other nostril)?

There is no concern if your child sneezes after the nasal spray vaccine or if it’s only given in one nostril. There is enough of the vaccine to help protect the child from influenza in both of these cases.

My child has a chronic health problem and got the nasal spray vaccine. When I looked on the Internet, it wasn’t recommended for children with the same problem my child has. Do I need to worry?

No. You don’t need to worry. Your child was assessed to make sure the nasal spray vaccine was safe for him or her. The information on the Internet may have been from the United States or another country. Every country has different standards for who can have the nasal spray vaccine.

Last Revised: August 1, 2014

Author: Influenza Immunization Program, Alberta Health Services​​