Ontario's annual flu vaccination drive officially underway

Ontario's Ministry of Health says anyone living, working or going to school in the province can now be immunized for free at doctors' offices, health clinics and several pharmacies.

Youth can have vaccine administered via a nasal spray

Son or daughter doesn't like needles? Kids can opt for a nasal spray this year. (Canadian Press)

Ontario's annual flu vaccination drive is officially underway.

The Ministry of Health says anyone living, working or going to school in the province can now be immunized for free at doctors' offices, health clinics and several pharmacies.

But this year's campaign features a twist designed for kids between the ages of two and 17.

They can have their vaccine administered via a nasal spray rather than the traditional injection, though parents may still opt for the conventional approach if they prefer.

Toronto pediatrician Dr. Saul Greenberg says the spray could be more kid-friendly, but not for everyone.

"Have you ever tried to give a nasal spray to a two or three year old? Sometimes it's just as difficult as giving a needle," he said.

The ministry says the vaccines for children protect against four strains of influenza rather than the three in the adult vaccine.

Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins was getting the message out Monday.

"Because flu viruses can change from year to year, the vaccine is made to protect against the virus most likely to spread in any particular year. That's why it's important to get vaccinated every year."

However, last year they got it wrong; the vaccine failed to protect most people from the strain of the flu that was going around.

There were more than 3,000 lab-confirmed cases of the flu in Toronto last year, and 300 people across the province died because of it.

Flu shot clinics open in Toronto on Wednesday and will run at different locations in the city until the end of November.

The health ministry says it takes two weeks for the vaccine to offer full protection and urges people to get their flu shots early.

with files from The Canadian Press

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