The flu vaccine is recommended and offered free of charge to people who are at higher risk of complications:
- Children from 6 months to 17 years old who have certain chronic diseases
- Adults who have certain chronic diseases (including pregnant women regardless the stage of pregnancy)
- Pregnant women, in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters of their pregnancy
- People aged 75 and over.
To reduce the risk of contamination, the flu vaccine is also offered free of charge to:
- Family members who live in the same household of a child under 6 months of age or a person at higher risk of being hospitalized and to their caregivers
- Health care workers
Flu vaccination is also free of charge to:
- Healthy children from 6 to 23 months old
- Healthy people from 60 to 74 years old
Chronic diseases recognised under the program
The flu vaccine is offered free of charge to people who have any of the chronic diseases listed below because their disease makes them more susceptible to complications from the flu.
- Chronic cardiac or pulmonary disorders severe enough to require regular medical attention or hospital care, including the following:
- Bronchopulmonary dysplasia
- Cystic fibrosis
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Chronic conditions such as:
- Diabetes or other chronic metabolic disorders
- Liver problems, including cirrhosis
- Kidney problems
- Blood disorders, including hemoglobinopathy
- Immunodeficiencies, including HIV infection
- Immunosuppression caused by radiotherapy, chemotherapy and anti-rejection drugs (transplant)
- Medical conditions that may affect the ability to expel respiratory secretions and the ability to swallow, including the following:
- Cognitive disorder
- Spinal cord injury
- Convulsive disorder
- Neuromuscular disorders
- Morbid obesity
Changes made to the program
Québec immunization experts analyzed data from recent studies conducted in Québec, among others, on the number of flu-related hospitalizations and deaths. Current data on vaccine efficacy and the possible impact of repeated vaccination were also considered. Based on their analyses, the experts concluded that the following 2 groups do not have a higher risk of flu-related hospitalization and death than the rest of Québec’s healthy population:
- healthy children aged 6 to 23 months;
- healthy people aged 60 to 74.
Until now, these people were considered to be at higher risk, whereas their risk is comparable to the rest of Québec’s healthy population. Only people in these 2 groups who have certain chronic diseases are at higher risk of serious complications.
The recommendation to vaccinate healthy children aged 6 to 23 months was based on hospitalization data from a particularly severe season. Excluding chronically ill children from the number of hospitalizations, the data show that very few children in this age group were hospitalized for the flu and that death occurred only in exceptional cases. Moreover, only 1 in 5 children was given the flu vaccine, which suggests that flu vaccination is not widely accepted by parents or health professionals, not to mention the fact that several countries do not recommend vaccination in this age group.
Nor do the current data indicate a higher risk of complications for healthy people aged 60 to 74. The number of hospitalizations and deaths is much lower in this group than in chronically ill people of the same age.
Therefore, the experts have recommended that the Flu Vaccination Program be reviewed to focus efforts on people at higher risk of flu-related hospitalization and death and on their caregivers.
Even though the risk of flu-related hospitalization and death is low for healthy children aged 6 to 23 months and healthy people aged 60 to 74, these people can get vaccinated against the flu free of charge this year if they want to.