Content Map Terms

Common Questions About the Influenza (Flu) Vaccine

British Columbia Specific Information

Influenza is an infection of the respiratory system caused by the influenza virus. Symptoms vary from mild to severe and can include fever, headache, runny nose, sore throat or cough. The influenza vaccines protect against the viruses that cause influenza. To learn more about the influenza vaccines, and to access influenza-related information from your health authority, visit our Influenza (Flu) Season health feature.

The symptoms of flu are similar to other respiratory illnesses including the common cold and COVID-19. Use the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to find out if you or your family members need further assessment or testing for COVID-19. To learn more about the coronavirus, symptoms, how it spreads and prevention visit the Coronavirus (COVID-19) health feature.


The influenza (flu) vaccine saves lives. But sometimes people choose not to get the vaccine because of incorrect information they've heard about the vaccine or the flu.

With conflicting messages out there, it can be hard to know what's true and what to do. The answers to these common questions may help you feel good about deciding to get protected from the flu. And maybe you can use this information to encourage others to get protected too.

Question: Why do I need the vaccine? Getting the flu isn't a big deal, is it?

Answer: At best, the flu is no fun. Even a mild case can cause you to feel bad and miss work or school for a week or more. At worst, flu can become a very serious illness. It's especially risky for some people, including older adults, young children, and people with chronic health conditions like asthma or diabetes. Being pregnant also increases the risk of severe illness. But even otherwise healthy children and adults can get very sick or even die. It's much safer to get the vaccine than to get the flu.

Question: Do I really need to get a flu vaccine every year? Why isn't one vaccine enough?

Answer: The protection provided by the flu vaccine fades over time. Plus, flu viruses are always changing. Experts track these changes and update the vaccine every year. With very few exceptions, everyone over the age of 6 months needs to get the flu vaccine each fall. This gives the best protection. If you're pregnant, getting the flu vaccine also helps to protect your baby until they're old enough to get the vaccine.

Question: What's the point of getting the vaccine if I might still get the flu?

Answer: The flu vaccine prevents many people from getting the flu, but it isn't perfect. It takes about 2 weeks for the vaccine to be effective, so it's possible to catch the flu before you're fully protected. (And the flu vaccine doesn't prevent colds, "stomach flu," or other viral infections, which may sometimes be mistaken for the flu.) Still, if you do get the flu after getting vaccinated, you're much less likely to get very sick, end up in the hospital, or die from the flu.

Most people who die from the flu didn't get a flu vaccine. And many of those who die—especially children—were healthy before they got the flu.

Question: Can the flu vaccine make me sick?

Answer: You can't get the flu from the flu vaccine. But any vaccine can make you feel a little ill. For example, you might feel achy or have a slight fever for a few days. This is a sign that your immune system is learning how to fight off the actual flu virus.

Question: It's a hassle and I don't like shots, so I may skip the flu vaccine. Isn't this just a personal choice?

Answer: Nobody loves getting shots. And in fact, some people can get the flu vaccine as a nasal spray instead of a shot. If you're interested, ask your doctor or pharmacist about the nasal flu vaccine.

Whether to get the vaccine or not is a choice that only you can make. But it's about more than just you. Chances are, you're part of a family or community. And this group may include people for whom the flu could be serious or deadly. This might be a new grandchild, a beloved aunt, or a good friend who has a chronic disease. If you get the flu, you could spread it to others. By choosing to get the vaccine, you're helping to protect those you care about as well as yourself.


Current as of: October 31, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Christine Hahn MD - Epidemiology
Lesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine