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Flu vaccination

Making a vaccination appointment

Make an appointment

You can also make an appointment by calling 1‑877‑644‑4545 (Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

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Nunavik region

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Who can get the flu vaccine

The flu vaccine is offered free of charge to anyone aged 6 months and older who requests it.

The vaccine is highly recommended to people who are at higher risk for complications, that is:

  • People aged 75 years and older
  • People aged 6 months and older who have certain chronic diseases
  • People of any age living in residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs) and in intermediate resources.
  • Pregnant women:

The vaccine is also recommended to anyone likely to transmit the flu to those who are more vulnerable to complications from the flu, namely:

  • Family members living in the same household as a child under 6 months of age
  • Family members living in the same household as someone aged 75 years and older, people who have certain chronic diseases or pregnant women
  • Informal caregivers for residents in CHSLDs or intermediate resources, people aged 75 years and older, people with certain chronic diseases and pregnant women
  • Healthcare workers

Chronic diseases increasing the risk of complications

The vaccine is recommended to anyone living with any of the chronic diseases listed below because their disease makes them more vulnerable 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)
  • Emphysema
  • Asthma

Chronic conditions such as:

  • Diabetes or other chronic metabolic disorders
  • Liver problems, including cirrhosis
  • Kidney problems
  • Blood disorders, including hemoglobinopathy
  • Cancer
  • Immunodeficiency disorders, 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 disorders
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Convulsive disorders
  • Neuromuscular disorders
  • Morbid obesity

Benefits of vaccination

Flu vaccination aims to reduce the risk of flu complications, hospitalizations and mortality in people who are most at risk. The aim is not to prevent all cases of flu.

Vaccination enables the body to make antibodies to fight the flu. However, studies have shown that the number of antibodies may decrease in the year after vaccination, which particularly affects older adults and people with weakened immune systems.

In addition, viruses that cause the flu are constantly evolving. The composition of flu vaccines is reviewed annually in order to include the virus strains most likely to be circulating during the flu season.

It is highly recommended that people most at risk of developing complications and people in direct contact with them get vaccinated each year.

Flu vaccines

Two types of flu vaccines are offered in Québec:

  • Injectable vaccine: This vaccine contains four different strains of the flu virus and can be given each year after the age of 6 months
  • Intranasal vaccine: The intranasal flu vaccine contains four different strains of the flu virus and is administered via a nasal spray.

Vaccine effectiveness

The flu vaccines generally takes 2 weeks to be fully effective. The protection offered by the vaccines may vary from person to person, but it lasts at least 6 months.

The vaccine protects only against the strains of the flu virus it contains. It does not protect against other respiratory infections such as the common cold or COVID-19.

The vaccine’s effectiveness depends on the following:

  • The age of the vaccinated person
  • The state of the person’s immune system, that is, the system that allows their body to fight off infections
  • The match between the virus strains circulating and those contained in the vaccine

A strain of the virus included in the vaccine may be different from the circulating strains. In fact, the virus can evolve differently from what was predicted. As a result, the vaccine will be less effective against this strain. Nonetheless, the annual flu vaccine is still recommended, since it protects against the other strains included in the vaccine that might be circulating.

Flu vaccination for children

Children younger than 6 months

It is not recommended to vaccinate children under the age of 6 months. In fact, the effectiveness of the vaccine has yet to be proven for children that age. The vaccine is therefore not offered to them.

However, children under 6 months of age can also catch the flu. Furthermore, they are among those who are more at risk of being hospitalized upon getting the flu. Vaccination is therefore recommended to members of the same household and informal caregivers of children under 6 months of age to avoid transmitting the flu to them.

Children younger than 9 years

Children younger than 9 years getting the flu vaccine for the first time must receive two vaccine doses. The second dose must be given one month after the first. Parents must therefore plan for two appointments to get their child a flu vaccination.

Children younger than 9 years who have already received the flu vaccine need only receive a single vaccine dose.

Children aged 9 years and older

From the age of 9 years, children getting the flu vaccine receive a single dose of it, even if they have never received a flu vaccine before. The immune system of a 9-year-old child is sufficiently developed to produce enough antibodies to protect them with a single dose of the vaccine.

Reactions to vaccination

Possible side effects of the injectable vaccine

Some side effects may be caused by the vaccine, such as redness at the injection site. Other problems may occur by chance and are unrelated to vaccination, such as a cold, gastroenteritis or headache.

The injectable flu vaccine is safe. Most side effects are minor and short-lived.

Nature and frequency of possible reactions to the vaccine
FrequencyPossible side effects of the injectable vaccine

In most cases
(more than 50% of people)

  • Pain at injection site

Very often
(less than 50% of people)

  • Redness and swelling at injection site
  • Muscle pain, joint pain, headache, fatigue
  • Loss of appetite, drowsiness (difficulty staying awake), irritability

(less than 10% of people)

  • Bruising or itching at injection site
  • Fever, chills and discomfort, particularly in people receiving the flu vaccine for the first time.
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomachache
  • Red eyes, sore throat, coughing, difficulty breathing

(less than 1% of people)

  • Swelling of the face
  • Redness of the skin
  • Dizziness
  • Swollen glands

(less than 1 person in 1000)

  • Seizures (the body stiffens, and muscles contract in a jerky, involuntary manner)
  • Numbness, neuralgia (pain along the course of a nerve)

Extremely rare reactions

Extremely rare reactions may occur after a flu vaccine.

The Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is one such reaction. This syndrome causes progressive paralysis, that is, one or more parts of the body go numb and cannot move. This paralysis eventually disappears, but it can sometimes leave permanent effects. The cause of GBS is unknown. In most cases, GBS occurs following an intestinal or pulmonary infection. It mostly affects young adults and people aged 60 years and older.

The risk of experiencing Guillain-Barré syndrome after receiving a flu vaccine, if such risk exists, is extremely low. In fact, there is less of a chance of developing GBS after flu vaccination than after contracting an infection such as the flu.

Severe allergic reactions are also extremely rare.

Possible side effects of the intranasal vaccine

The vaccine can cause different reactions. Other problems may arise by chance and are unrelated to vaccination, such as a cold, gastroenteritis or headache.

The intranasal flu vaccine is safe. In most cases, it does not cause any side effects.

Nature and frequency of known reactions to the vaccine
FrequencyKnown reactions to the intranasal vaccine

(less than 10% of people)

  • Runny nose or nasal congestion
  • Headache
  • Fatigue or discomfort

(less than 1 person in 1000)

  • Allergic reaction

What to do after vaccination

Guidelines to follow immediately after vaccination

Wait 15 minutes before leaving the premises where you received the vaccine. If an allergic reaction occurs, the symptoms will appear a few minutes after the vaccination.

If you feel side effects, immediately inform the person who gave you the vaccine. That person will be able to treat you on the spot.

Guidelines to follow at home

Use fever or pain medication as needed. Do not give medication containing acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) to people under 18 years of age in the four weeks following their vaccination.

If you received the injectable vaccine and you experience redness, pain or swelling at the injection site, place a cool damp cloth (cold compress) over the affected area.

If you received the intranasal vaccine, the virus contained in this vaccine may be found in nose secretions. So, avoid close contact with severely immunocompromised people requiring protective isolation, for two weeks following vaccination.

When to seek medical attention

See a doctor if one of the following situations applies to you:

  • You experience serious and unusual symptoms.
  • Your symptoms get worse instead of better.
  • Your symptoms last over 48 hours.

Last update: September 25, 2023


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