What you need to know about the flu shot in Quebec

Quebec's flu vaccine campaign officially begins this week. Here's a handy guide to getting the flu shot in the province.

Vaccine is offered free to young children, pregnant women, people aged 60+

The flu vaccine is offered at multiple locations in Montreal throughout November. (Valentin Flauraud/Reuters)

Quebec's flu vaccine campaign officially begins this week, with public health officials reminding at-risk patients and their families to get the shot.

The flu can lead to complications which can kill some patients.

Health officials in western Canada have warned the strain there this year is particularly virulent.

But Quebec's director of public health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, says that won't necessarily be the case here, explaining that the virus can mutate before it gets to the province.

"Actually, it's too early to say what will happen in Quebec," he said. "Even if we can isolate some parts of the viruses in western part of Canada, it can be different when it arrives here."

Here's a handy guide to getting the influenza shot in Quebec.

How is the flu shot administered?

The flu shot is either injected or given through the nose. 

The intranasal version is only recommended for children aged 2 to 17. Studies show it's more effective for kids and teens in that age group and protects them longer than the injectable vaccine does.

The injectable vaccine is recommended for everyone else.

Who can get it free?

The influenza vaccine is free only for high-risk patients and those who come into close contact with them. 

The injectable vaccine is given free to the following people:

  • Children from 6 to 23 months old.
  • People with certain chronic diseases.
  • Pregnant women with chronic diseases.
  • Pregnant women in good health, in their 2nd and 3rd trimester.
  • People aged 60 years old and over.

It is also available free for:

  • Close relations and caretakers of people listed above.
  • People who come in close contact with children less than 6 months old.
  • Health care workers.
  • People living in remote or isolated communities.

The intranasal vaccine is given free to children and teens age 2 to 17 who live with people in the above-mentioned high-risk groups.

Is it actually effective?

According to the province, the vaccine's effectiveness depends on the following:

  • The person's age.
  • The state of the person's immune system.
  • The extent to which the virus strains circulating match those contained in the vaccine.

The vaccine prevents the flu in about 60 per cent of healthy people when the strains of viruses it contains correspond to strains circulating.

Quebec's public health institute, the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, is looking into how effective the flu vaccine is and who it actually protects in the long term.

The findings of the study are due in 2017. In the meantime, the province isn't changing its flu vaccine program or its advice that people get vaccinated.

Where can I get a shot?

Most clinics start operating in November. 

To find out when and where the flu shots will be available in your community on the island of Montreal, consult the list below.

With files from Marilla Steuter-Martin