This year's influenza vaccine is available at doctors' offices, public health clinics and pharmacies across B.C.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall said the main flu season runs from late November through to next April, and cases of H3N2 influenza are already showing up. That strain affects mainly older people, while influenza B is expected to show up by February and spread among children.
The vaccine is is free for children between six months and five years, seniors aged 65 and older, pregnant women, aboriginal people and those with chronic health conditions, as well as caregivers and others who expect to be in close contact with higher-risk groups.
About 3,500 people die in Canada each winter from influenza and its complications, with hospital and residential care patients the most vulnerable. Kendall said influenza causes more deaths than all other vaccine-preventable illnesses combined.
This year's vaccine is expected to provide 40 to 60 per cent protection against H3N2 and 65 per cent protection against various strains of influenza B.
"The annual flu vaccine is still the best tool we have to protect against getting the flu," said Dr. Charles Webb, president of the Doctors of B.C. "Combined with regular hand washing, you are also protecting those around you who may be more vulnerable to serious flu complications."
To find the nearest flu shot clinic, call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 or use the online influenza clinic finder.