Government of Saskatchewan
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     Monday, September 01, 2014
Saskatchewan! Healthy people. A healthy province.

Information updated January 2014 

NOTE: All influenza vaccines for the 2013-14 season contain 2 influenza A strains (H1N1 and H3N2) and 1 influenza B strain (B/ Massachusetts/2/2012-like virus).

What is influenza ('the flu')?

  • Influenza (‘the flu') is a disease caused by an influenza virus which is easily spread through coughing, sneezing and direct contact with nose and throat secretions.
  • Influenza can result in hospitalization and death, especially in very young children, the elderly and those with serious underlying health conditions.
  • Symptoms include sudden onset of fever and chills, a cough, muscle aches, a headache, fatigue and a runny or stuffy nose.
  • Infected people can spread the virus on to others before they show any symptoms.

How can I prevent getting or spreading the flu?

  • Get the vaccine (‘a flu shot') every year, to protect yourself and those around you. You cannot get the flu from the flu shot.
  • Stay home when you feel sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel to clean your hands if soap and water are not available.
  • Cough and sneeze into your sleeve or a tissue (throw tissue away after use and wash your hands).
  • Clean and disinfect all surfaces regularly.

Who can get a free influenza vaccine (flu shot)?

  • Anyone 6 months of age and older.

The vaccine is highly recommended for:

  • People with a chronic health condition including but not limited to:
    • lung and/or heart diseases
    • asthma
    • diabetes mellitus (types 1 and 2)
    • neurological conditions
    • cancer
    • kidney disease
    • children on long-term aspirin therapy.
  • Adults 65 years of age and older.
  • Pregnant women in all trimesters.
  • People with severe obesity.
  • Residents of a long-term care facility.
  • Children from 6 months up to and including 59 months of age (under 5 years old).

NOTE: Children less than 9 years of age need 2 doses four weeks apart if they have not previously received a flu shot.

Groups recommended to get immunized to protect those at high-risk include:

  • Health care workers and volunteers.
  • Household and close contacts of persons who are at risk of getting seriously ill with influenza.
  • Household and close contacts of babies younger than 6 months of age.
  • Members of households expecting babies during the flu season.
  • Individuals providing regular childcare to children up to 59 months of age (under 5 years old) either in or out of the home.
  • People who work with poultry or hogs.
  • Students in health sciences (human and animal).

Who should not get the vaccine?

Those who have recently had a mild illness, with or without fever, can still get the flu shot.

  • Babies younger than 6 months old cannot get the vaccine.
  • People with a past history of a severe allergic reaction to a previous influenza vaccine or any component of an influenza vaccine should discuss their situation with a public health nurse, their physician or nurse practitioner.
  • People who developed a neurological disorder called Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) within 6 weeks of a previous influenza immunization.

How soon will I be protected after getting a flu shot?

  • Effectiveness varies depending on the age and the immune response of the person being immunized, and the match between the vaccine strains and the influenza strains circulating in the community.
  • Antibodies to prevent influenza develop within 2-3 weeks after immunization in most healthy children and adults.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol®, Tempra®) can be given for fever or soreness. ASA (Aspirin®) should NOT be given to anyone under 20 years of age due to the risk of Reye 's syndrome.

What are possible side effects from the flu shot?

Vaccines are very safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than to get influenza illness.
These common reactions are generally mild to moderate and may last 1-4 days:

  • Soreness, warmth, redness and swelling at the injection site and/or limited movement of the immunized arm or leg.
  • Headache, muscle aches, fever, chills, fatigue, joint pain, irritability, sweating and/or loss of appetite.
  • Less common: sore, red or itchy eyes, a cough, and/or skin itching and throat hoarseness.
  • It is important to stay in the clinic for 15 minutes after getting any vaccine because there is an extremely rare possibility of a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This may include hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the throat, tongue or lips. This reaction can be treated and occurs in less than 1 in a million people who get the vaccine. If this happens after you leave the clinic, call 911 or the local emergency number.
  • Oculorespiratory syndrome (ORS) has been reported in past influenza seasons. Tell your public health nurse, physician or nurse practitioner if you have experienced red eyes, respiratory problems (difficulty breathing, cough, wheeze, chest tightness, sore throat) and/or facial swelling following a previous influenza vaccine.
  • The background rate of GBS from any cause (including influenza illness) is 1-2 cases per 100,000 persons/ year (which equals 10-20 cases per million people/year). Investigations have shown either no risk or a very small attributable risk of GBS in roughly one case per million doses/year from influenza vaccine.

Who should you report reactions to?

  • Report any severe, unusual or unexpected reactions to your local public health nurse, your doctor or nurse practitioner as soon as possible.

Talk to your public health nurse if:

  • You have questions or concerns about immunizations.
  • You have questions or concerns about your or your child's reaction to an immunization.
  • You or your child had to go to a doctor, hospital or health centre with an illness that might be related to an immunization.

What do the influenza vaccines contain?

  • AGRIFLUTM / AGGRIPAL® are for the general public, are latex and thimerosal free and contains surface antigens of this year's influenza A and B virus strains, sodium chloride, potassium chloride, potassium dihydrogen phosphate, disodium phosphate dihydrate, magnesium chloride, calcium chloride, and may contain traces of neomycin, kanamycin, egg proteins, ovalbumin, formaldehyde, polysorbate 80 or cetyltrimethylammonium bromide, barium and citrates.
  • VAXIGRIP is for the general public, is latex free and contains surface antigens of this year's influenza A and B virus strains, sodium phosphate buffered isotonic sodium chloride solution, formaldehyde, Triton® X-100 and trace amounts of sucrose and neomycin. Thimerosal is added as a preservative.
  • FLUVIRAL® / FLULAVAL® is for the general public, is latex and antibiotic free and contains surface antigens of this year's influenza A and B virus strains, sodium chloride, potassium chloride, disodium hydrogen phosphate heptahydrate, potassium dihydrogen phosphate, water for injection, trace residual amounts of egg proteins, formaldehyde, sodium deoxycholate and sucrose. Thimerosal is added as a preservative.  
  • FLUAD® is only for long-term care facility residents 65 years of age and older, is latex and thimerosal free and contains surface antigens of this year's influenza A and B virus strains, MF59C.1 adjuvant, squalene, polysorbate 80, sorbitan trioleate, sodium citrate, citric acid, sodium chloride, potassium chloride, potassium dihydrogen phosphate, disodium phosphate dihydrate, magnesium chloride hexahydrate, calcium chloride dihydrate and may contain traces of neomycin, kanamycin, ovalbumin (residual egg proteins), formaldehyde, cetyltrimethylammonium bromide and barium.

Your immunization information will be recorded in a computerized system known as the Saskatchewan Immunization Management System (SIMS). Information collected in SIMS may be used to:

  • manage immunization records,
  • notify you if you or your child needs an immunization,
  • and monitor how well vaccines work in preventing vaccine preventable diseases.

Your immunization records may also be shared with health care professionals in order to provide public health services; assist with diagnosis and treatment; and to control the spread of vaccine preventable diseases.

For more information contact:
your local public health office,
OR your physician or nurse practitioner,
OR the HealthLine at 811.

© 2014 Government of Saskatchewan. All rights reserved.