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Everything you need to know about getting your influenza, COVID-19 and RSV vaccines in Metro Vancouver

Find out everything you need to know about protecting yourself over the fall and winter.
Find out everything you need to know about getting the flu shot, RSV vaccine, and COVID-19 booster in Vancouver, B.C. in 2023.

Metro Vancouver residents should book their flu shot along with their COVID-19 booster as cases of influenza climb across B.C. 

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry joined Health Minister Adrian Dix for a press conference on Friday, Nov. 10 to provide an update on respiratory illnesses in the province and its immunization campaign.

The province has administered over a million doses of the influenza vaccine and 847,000 for COVID-19. 

Over 1.1 million people received reminders to get their COVID-19 booster dose but many people are not registered in the system and won't receive an automatic update. 

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that everyone get the latest available COVID-19 dose to slow the spread of the virus and to protect against more serious complications.  

Henry noted that many people have fallen seriously ill since the start of this respiratory season and that "fever and a cough is one of the hallmarks of respiratory illnesses."

Find out everything you need to know about protecting yourself over the fall and winter.

Why do I need the flu vaccine? 

While cases of the flu waned during the height of the pandemic, cases have been increasing as travel opened back up. In fact, cases of COVID-19 have been following a downward trend as influenza cases climb. 

This year, influenza A is the predominant strain spreading in Metro Vancouver and influenza B is causing fewer ones. Notably, one of the B lineages, B/Yamagata, has not been detected globally in the last two years, said Henry. 

Thankfully, the influenza vaccine you will receive in B.C. is either trivalent, meaning it provides protection against three strains, or quadrivalent, meaning it covers four.

Influenza vaccines available in B.C. for the 2023-2024 influenza season include:

  • Fluad Trivalent (inactivated).
  • Fluzone Quadrivalent (inactivated).
  • Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent (inactivated).
  • Flulaval Tetra Quadrivalent (inactivated) 
  • Flumist Quadrivalent (live attenuated).

The vaccine you receive will be based on your age, risk factors, and availability. Find out more information about risk factors with the B.C. government.

Everyone is recommended to get the flu vaccine who is over six months of age, particularly for children under five and adults over 65. It is free for all B.C. residents. 

Why do I need the RSV vaccine?

Health Canada has approved the first vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) for adults aged 60 and over. 

Doctors have been calling for an RSV vaccine for seniors because although the virus is common, older people are much more likely to become severely ill and require hospitalization.

RSV season in Canada usually starts in the late fall and lasts until spring.

You may need your doctor to write you a prescription for this vaccine and it costs upwards of $200. If you want to get it at the same time as your flu shot and COVID-19 booster, make sure you visit your doctor in advance. 

What do I need to know about getting a COVID-19 vaccine?

Completing a full course of COVID-19 vaccinations will help to protect you against severe illness from the virus. While cases have slowed, people who become ill experience less severe symptoms if they have been vaccinated. 

Henry added that unvaccinated people also have the greatest risk and potential for suffering from long COVID.

Omicron variations are causing the majority of infections and people who remain most at risk are over the age of 60 or who are immunocompromised. 

Health Canada approved updated Moderna and Pfizer vaccines in September 2023 for people six months and older. These vaccines are available in B.C. and offer protection against the new variants of COVID-19.

Do the vaccines have side effects? 

Health Canada has a thorough approval process to make sure all the vaccines and medicines are safe. 

Many people have no side effects from influenza vaccines but several people report ones from the COVID-19 ones. Side effects are usually mild and go away on their own within a few days but other people may experience flu-like symptoms, such as a fever.

Serious side effects, like a severe allergic reaction, are very rare. 

How do I get my flu shot and COVID booster?

You can make a COVID-19 and flu vaccine booking at the same time. 

Invitations have now been sent by email or text message to all people registered in the Get Vaccinated system. The invite has a direct link to book an appointment to receive your COVID-19 vaccine, your influenza vaccine, or both, depending on when you received your last dose.

These vaccines are free and available at pharmacies, health authority clinics, and some primary care providers’ offices.

You can book COVID-19 and flu immunizations through the Get Vaccinated system at this time. If you need help scheduling your vaccines, call the Service BC call centre.

How do I register if I'm not already in the system? 

To register online, you must provide:

  • First and last name
  • Date of birth 
  • Postal code
  • Personal Health Number (PHN)
  • An email address that gets checked regularly or a phone number that can receive text messages

You can find your PHN on the back of your B.C. driver's licence, BC Services Card, or CareCard. It takes under two minutes to complete the online registration.

After you register, you will receive a text, email, or a phone call when it's your turn to book a vaccine appointment.

With files from the Canadian Press