The flu shot

Common questions about the flu shot are answered.

Syringe filled with flu vaccine photo by Government of Alberta is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 (

The flu is very contagious and can spread quickly and easily. There is a lot of information available on avoiding the flu and preventing the spread of germs. One of the most talked-about parts of flu season is the flu shot-and it comes with lots of questions. Should I get one? Will it make me sick? Why do I have to get one every year?

Stephanie Yanow, associate professor at the School of Public Health, answers some frequently asked questions about the flu shot and why it is important to get immunized.

Why should I get immunized?

"Getting immunized protects you against contracting the flu and it also helps protect others," explains Yanow. "When you get the flu shot it helps reduce the spread of the influenza virus."

There are certain groups of people who are at higher risk of serious illness if they contract the flu, so it is especially important that they get immunized. They are:

  • Young children (six months - five years of age)
  • Pregnant women
  • Seniors 65 years and older
  • People with certain medical conditions

If you are in regular contact with any of these groups of people, you may want to consider getting a flu shot to protect their health and yours

Additionally, if you provide an essential community service (e.g. police officers, firefighters, etc.), work in a health-care setting, or work in a school or daycare, you should consider getting a flu shot.

Will the flu give shot give me the flu?

"No, the inactivated influenza vaccine (flu shot) contains deactivated viruses and cannot give you the flu," says Yanow.

Common side effects from the flu shot might be redness, swelling or discomfort at the injections site, feeling tired or irritable, headache or body aches, or fever or chills. Most reactions go away within 48 - 78 hours.

When should I get vaccinated and how often?

"The influenza viruses that are most likely to cause illness change from year to year," explains Yanow. "So the flu shot you receive this year will not protect you from next year's flu."

In Canada, the flu season begins in the fall so it is best to get immunized in October or November every year but you can get the flu shot at any point during the influenza season.

Where can I get the flu shot?

In Alberta, free influenza immunizations are available to all Albertans six months of age and older. You can receive them at Alberta Health Services clinics and from physicians. If you are five years of age and older you can also get the flu shot from your pharmacist.

Alberta Health Services has a website to help you find an immunization clinic nearest you.

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