Last updated: February 28, 2023


The best way to protect yourself and your family, and prevent severe illness from the flu virus, is to get the flu vaccine this fall. It may also help you avoid unnecessary health care visits or isolating if you have symptoms. Get vaccinated by contacting your local pharmacist, health care provider or  visiting a Toronto Public Health vaccine clinic.

Influenza Vaccines

The publicly-funded vaccines this year are FluLaval Tetra, Fluzone® QIV, Afluria® Tetra, Fluzone® QIV-HD, Fluad® TIV-adj.

Influenza Illness

Influenza virus (the flu) is very contagious. The flu spreads by respiratory droplets, causing an infection of the nose, throat and lungs. The symptoms are sudden onset of fever, sore throat, runny nose, cough, headaches, chills, muscle aches, feeling tired, and loss of appetite. In children, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can occur. Serious complications from flu illness are greatest in children under five years of age, pregnant people, older adults, and people with health conditions. On very rare occasions, the influenza virus can lead to Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a neurological disorder.

Vaccine Benefits

Flu vaccination is recommended for everyone aged six months and older. How well the vaccine works each year, depends on a person’s immune system and the match with the circulating virus strains. The vaccine can provide some cross protection even when the match is not exact. In general, flu vaccines are about 50% effective in preventing flu illness in healthy adults. The vaccine can reduce the risk of having go to the doctor with the flu by about 50 per cent, and reduce the risk of serious flu complications that can result in hospitalization or even death. The vaccine is still the best protection against the flu. The flu vaccine cannot cause influenza because it does not contain any live virus. It takes two weeks for your body to develop an immune response from the vaccine.

Children under the age of nine years old who are getting the flu vaccine for the first time need a second dose at least four weeks after the first dose.

Vaccines for Adults 65+

The flu can make older adults very sick. Two vaccines are approved just for seniors to give better protection against the flu. Both vaccines provide additional protection to seniors against the flu. Both of these vaccines may cause more soreness, redness and swelling where the vaccine was given, lasting a few days longer than the standard flu vaccine.

Pregnant People

The flu is more likely to cause illness that results in hospitalization in pregnant people than in people of reproductive age who are not pregnant. The flu may also be harmful for the developing baby. The flu vaccine is safe and recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding people to reduce the risk of getting very sick from the flu. Vaccination can also protect the fetus and newborn.

Side Effects and Risks

It is much safer to get the flu vaccine than to get the flu. Flu vaccines are safe, and side effects are usually mild and last a few days. Common side effects include pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, headache, fever, muscle aches, joint pain or feeling tired. Side effects in children include irritability, drowsiness, or loss of appetite.

In rare cases, serious allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) can occur. Seek medical attention if you have trouble breathing, rash or swelling of the face and throat. Allergic reactions can be treated and are usually temporary. The risk of Oculo-Respiratory Syndrome is very low. The risk of Guillain-Barré Syndrome after flu vaccination is very low, at about one case in a million flu vaccines given. The risk of Guillain-Barre Syndrome is higher following an influenza infection.

Talk to your Health Care Provider

Always tell your health care provider if you have allergies or if you have had side effects from a vaccine in the past. This vaccine is not for people with previous allergic reactions to flu vaccine (anaphylaxis) or people who have had Guillain-Barré Syndrome within six weeks after flu vaccination. People with a history of Oculo-Respiratory Syndrome can get the vaccine but should speak with their doctor first.

Getting your COVID-19 Vaccine at the same time as your Influenza Vaccine

Children 6 months of age and older and adults can get the flu vaccine at the same time, before or after a COVID-19 vaccine.

Flu vaccine appointments are available at:

  • Participating pharmacies for people two years of age and older
  • Participating primary care providers for people six months of age and older
  • City of Toronto Immunization Clinics for anyone six months of age and older, and mobile clinics for residents five years of age and older

How to Get Your Flu Vaccine Safely During COVID-19

  • Contact your local pharmacist or health care provider to make an appointment for you and your family members, or book an appointment at a City of Toronto Immunization Clinics
  • Self-screen for COVID-19 before going to your appointment
  • Stay home if you feel sick, even if your symptoms are mild
  • Wear a mask

For more information