Flu shots in Canada: what you need to know this year

With the return of flu season, Canadians are encouraged to get their annual flu shot. Experts say rolling out the flu vaccine this year could be more crucial than ever.

“One thing we need to remember is that, as there have been fewer influenza infections over the past two years due to COVID-19 restrictions, … the population, in general, is (now) more susceptible flu,” said Dr. Jesse Papenburg. , a Montreal pediatric infectious disease specialist, told CTV Your Morning on Monday.

“So I think this year we should expect to see a lot of flu infections and the best way to protect yourself against infection and serious illness is to get your flu shot this fall.”

The flu’s relatively low circulation over the past two years puts young children at a higher than usual risk of catching it this fall and winter, experts warned last week. They also fear that fewer pandemic measures and reduced vaccination will lead to further spread of the virus.

Pandemic measures necessary to limit the spread of COVID-19 resulted in only 69 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases in the 2020-2021 season and only sporadic cases in 2021-2022, according to a recent update from the Committee National Advisory on Immunization, which advises the Public Health Agency of Canada on the use of vaccines.

This year’s flu shots will coincide with the rollout of bivalent COVID-19 vaccines that target Omicron strains.

According to Papenburg, the two vaccines can be taken together safely.

“You can get both the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu shot at the same time, or you can get it in a certain number of weeks. It doesn’t matter,” he said. declared.

“It has been shown to be safe and effective when given at the same time or at different times.”

Papenburg says flu risks are particularly high this year for young children under five and two, adults over 65, pregnant women and anyone with certain chronic conditions involving the lungs, heart or the immune system.

Highlighting Australia’s recent flu season last summer, which was considered one of its worst flu seasons in history and started earlier than usual, Papenburg warns of a situation similar to Canada.

“I have no reason to believe that in Canada we’re going to escape it. I think we’re going to (see) at least average levels of influenza activity this year, if not more.”

With files from The Canadian Press