Influenza and the Flu Shot FAQs

What is the flu?

Influenza, or the “flu”, is a respiratory illness that spreads from person to person. Most people recover from the flu in 7 to 10 days, but infants, children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with chronic health conditions are at greater risk of serious complications such as pneumonia.

What are the symptoms of the flu?

Influenza symptoms range from unpleasant to very serious. Symptoms usually appear 1 to 4 days after you have been exposed to the virus. You can be contagious even if you do not show symptoms.

Symptoms of influenza include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Runny eyes
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Extreme weakness and tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea or vomiting (in children)

Am I at higher risk for complications from the flu?

Some individuals are at higher risk for flu-related complications and hospitalizations and are strongly encouraged to get a flu shot.

  • Children under 5
  • Adults 65 and older
  • Pregnant women
  • Essential community and healthcare workers (e.g., fire, EMS, police, child care workers, grocery store employees)
  • People with heart, brain, lung, kidney or immune disorders, diabetes, cancer, morbid obesity or anemia
  • People who work with poultry
  • Residents of nursing homes and other chronic care facilities
  • Indigenous people
  • People who could spread influenza to anyone who is at higher risk for complications from the flu

Where can I get a flu shot?


  • Family doctor or primary care provider
  • Public Health
  • Pharmacy (2 years of age and older)

Please note: As of December 11, 2020, the scope of practice for pharmacists has expanded for influenza vaccine administration. Pharmacies can now administer flu vaccines to individuals 2 years of age and older.


  • Pharmacy
  • Family doctor or primary care provider
  • Public Health


  • Pharmacy (This year, pharmacies will be offering the high-dose flu vaccine for seniors.)
  • Family doctor or primary care provider
  • Public Health

Can I get a flu shot if I am not feeling well?

If you are sick, you should wait until you feel better before being immunized.

If you have symptoms of acute respiratory infection, including minor symptoms such as sore throat or runny nose, you should wait to get your flu shot until 10 days from when your symptoms started or you have recovered, whichever is later.

If you have suspected, probable or confirmed COVID-19, or are a close contact of a case, you should not attend your flu shot appointment.

Is FluMist an option for my kids this year?

FluMist is being distributed across Ontario for the 2020/2021 flu season, but it will not be available at Public Health. FluMist may be available at some pharmacies. Contact your local pharmacy to find out if they are carrying FluMist this year.

My child hates needles, what can I do?

  • Encourage your child to eat before their appointment.
  • Bring something to distract your child that they enjoy.
  • If your child is still breastfeeding, they can be breastfed during the immunization.
  • Wear short sleeves so the upper arm can be easily reached.
  • Topical numbing creams or gels can be helpful for some children. Talk to your pharmacist about this option.

What is the difference between the standard-dose flu vaccine and the high-dose flu vaccine for seniors?

If you are 65 and older, there are two different flu shots available – standard-dose and high-dose.

The standard-dose flu vaccine protects against four strains of flu virus while the high-dose flu vaccine for seniors protects against three strains of flu virus, but in higher doses.

Both vaccines are effective, so those 65 and older should not delay getting immunized.

Where can I get the high-dose flu vaccine for seniors?

This year, pharmacies will be offering the high-dose flu vaccine for seniors. It will also be available through your primary care provider and at Public Health, but in smaller quantities. Public Health is not able to guarantee requests for high-dose flu vaccine for seniors.

It is important for seniors to get the flu shot that is available in their location without delay. Both standard dose flu vaccine and high-dose flu vaccine are effective.

Do I need to bring my health card to get a flu shot?

No, you do not need your health card if you come to Public Health.

You will need to bring it if you go to a pharmacy.

Which flu vaccines are publicly funded for the 2020/2021 flu season?

Product Covers Flu Strains Licensed Ages for Use

 Flulaval Tetra  





≥ 6 months of age 

Fluzone Quadrivalent 





≥ 6 months of age 

Flucelvax Quad 





≥ 9 years of age

Primarily distributed to pharmacies 

Fluzone High Dose 




65+ years 

Primarily distributed to pharmacies

How effective is this year’s flu vaccine?

It is too early in the season to know the effectiveness. You can go online to the FluWatch website at to see weekly influenza reports.

Can I get the flu shot if I have an egg allergy?

Yes. You may talk to your doctor or primary care provider if you have any concerns.

How many doses of flu vaccine do I need?

Most people need only one dose each year.

Children ages 6 months to 8 years need two doses of vaccine at least 4 weeks apart if it is the first time they are getting the flu vaccine.

Does the flu vaccine work right away?

No, it takes 2 weeks for your system to develop antibodies that fight the flu. This is why it is best to be immunized early in the flu season.

What are the side effects of the flu vaccine?

  • Redness, swelling and soreness where the needle was given
  • Headache
  • Tiredness/weakness
  • Fever

These side effects are generally mild and last only a few days.

What to do:

  • Put a clean, cold cloth over the sore area
  • Continue to move your arm as much as possible
  • Get a good night’s sleep

When to get immediate care:

See your doctor or primary care provider immediately or go to the nearest hospital emergency department if any of these symptoms develop:

  • Hives
  • Swelling of the mouth or throat
  • Trouble breathing, hoarseness or wheezing
  • High fever (over 40 degrees Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Convulsions (seizures)

Who should NOT get a flu shot?

  • Anyone who has had a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to a previous flu immunization
  • Anyone who has had a serious allergic reaction to any ingredient in the vaccine (with the exception of egg)
  • Anyone who had Guillain-Barré syndrome within 6 weeks of a previous flu immunization
  • Children under 6 months of age

When is it too late to get a flu shot?

As long as influenza is still circulating in the community and there is still flu vaccine available, you can still get immunized.

The Flu and COVID-19

Why is the flu shot so important this year?

As flu season emerges during the COVID-19 pandemic, increased numbers of flu infections may put increased strains on our healthcare system. Getting your flu shot is an important way to help maintain our health care system.

Australia, whose flu season just ended, had the highest ever rates of flu vaccine uptake this year. High flu shot uptake, in combination with other public health measures put in place to control the spread of COVID-19 (i.e., frequent hand-washing, physical distancing and mask-wearing), resulted in their mildest flu season in recent history.

There is good reason to expect that if flu shot uptake is high in our community, along with careful adherence to COVID-19 public health measures, we may also have a mild flu season this year. 

Does the flu vaccine offer protection against COVID-19?

No. The flu vaccine will not protect against coronaviruses and COVID-19 but will help prevent the flu.

Will the flu vaccine increase risk of illness with COVID-19?

No. Getting a flu vaccine will not increase your risk of COVID-19 illness.

Is it possible to get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time?

Yes, it is possible to get both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time.