Influenza immunization 2008

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The influenza vaccine provides protection against viruses that cause the flu, a highly contagious respiratory infection. Individuals who have been immunized may contract the flu, but the illness will be milder. Health Canada recommends getting a flu shot every year. Because the many strains of influenza change over time, each year a new vaccine is produced to target the three most common strains predicted for the coming season.

Free immunization is available to most Canadians in high risk groups: seniors, children aged 6 to 23 months, children and adults with certain chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, health care workers, and household contacts of people at high risk. In some provinces and territories free immunization is offered to all residents.

In 2008, 31.7% of Canadians aged 12 or older reported that they had been vaccinated against influenza in the past year, about the same rate as in 2007. This was down from 33.8% in 2005, but was an increase when compared to 2003.

Throughout that period, women were more likely than men to receive a flu shot.

Chart 1


Chart 1: Percentage who received flu shot within previous year, by sex, household population aged 12 or older, Canada, 2001 to 2008

Seniors are at higher risk of complications from the flu, such as bacterial infection and pneumonia. In 2008, 66.6% of Canadians aged 65 or older had a flu shot within the previous 12 months, compared with 25.7% of people aged 12 to 64.

The flu can cause serious complications in people with weakened immune systems or respiratory conditions. People who had one or more of eight chronic conditions were more likely to get the flu shot than those who had none of these conditions (49.1% versus 27.2%). The eight chronic conditions were: asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and effects of stroke. Among those with at least one chronic condition, 73.1% of seniors and 38.3% of those at aged 12 to 64 had received a flu shot in the previous year.

Chart 2


Chart 2: Percentage who received flu shot within previous year, by age group and presence of chronic conditions, household population aged 12 or older, Canada, 2008

In 2008 residents of urban areas were more likely than rural dwellers to have received a flu shot within the previous 12 months (32.1% versus 29.8%).

Only Nova Scotia (39.8%) and Ontario (36.6%), had influenza immunization rates that were above the national level in 2008. Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia were lower than the national figure and all other provinces and territories were about the same as the Canadian average.


Additional information from the Canadian Community Health Survey is available from CANSIM table 105-0501.


The effect of universal influenza immunization on vaccination rates in Ontario. Kwong JC, Sambell C, Johansen H, et al. 2006; 17(2): 31-40.
Flu shots-national and provincial/territorial trends. Johansen H, Sambell C, Zhao W. 2006; 17(2): 43-8.
Influenza vaccination. Johansen H, Nguyen K, Mao L, et al. 2004; 15(2): 33-43.
Trends in influenza vaccination in Canada, 1996/1997 to 2005. Kwong JC, Rosella LC, Johansen H. 2007; 18(4): 9-19.

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