Vaccine uptake in Canadian adults: Highlights from the 2018-2019 Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Coverage Survey

The Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Coverage Survey is a yearly telephone survey that collects information about the flu shot in Canada. Each flu season, the survey estimates how many people get the flu shot as well as knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about the flu shot. This year, the participants were also asked about other recommended vaccines for adults: pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, pneumococcal and shingles.

Purpose of this survey

Results from the survey provide information about how well Canadians are protected against vaccine preventable diseases as well as what they know and think about vaccines.

Survey results are used to:

Key results

Influenza vaccine

The flu season in Canada normally runs from November to April. Anyone can get the flu, which can sometimes lead to severe complications or death. Some people are at higher risk for complications due to the flu, including:

The influenza vaccine, also known as the flu shot, is the best way to prevent the disease. Every Canadian older than 6 months of age should get the flu shot every year.

Figure 1. Seasonal flu vaccination coverage, 2016-2017 to 2018-2019 flu seasons.
Figure 1. Seasonal flu vaccination coverage, 2016-2017 to 2018-2019 flu seasons.
Figure 1: Text description
Seasonal flu vaccination coverage for all adults (18+)
Flu season Percent vaccinated (%)
2016-2017 35.8
2017-2018 38.3
2018-2019 41.8
Seasonal flu vaccination coverage for age 18-64 without chronic medical conditions
Flu season Percent vaccinated (%)
2016-2017 25.1
2017-2018 26.5
2018-2019 30.8
Seasonal flu vaccination coverage for age 18-64 with chronic medical conditions
Flu season Percent vaccinated (%)
2016-2017 37.0
2017-2018 39.4
2018-2019 42.8
Seasonal flu vaccination coverage for seniors (65+)
Flu season Percent vaccinated (%)
2016-2017 69.5
2017-2018 70.7
2018-2019 69.9

Who got the flu shot

While vaccine coverage for adults in the 2018/19 season was higher than the coverage in the 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons, not enough Canadian adults got the flu shot.

Canada’s goal is to have 80% of those at higher risk of complications from the flu vaccinated. This includes seniors (65 years of age and older) and adults aged 18-64 years with chronic medical conditions.

In the 2018/19 season:

Timing and place of vaccination

Reasons to get the vaccine

Other vaccines

Tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) vaccines

In Canada, adults can be vaccinated against tetanus with either the tetanus-diphtheria (Td) or the tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (Tdap) vaccines. All adults should receive 1 dose of Tdap in adulthood to be protected from pertussis, and all pregnant women should receive 1 dose of Tdap to protect their babies until they can be vaccinated themselves. Also, all adults should receive one dose of tetanus vaccine (either Td or Tdap) every 10 years to be protected from tetanus.

Pneumococcal vaccine

The bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, also known as pneumococcus, is a common cause of pneumonia, and can also cause blood infections referred to as invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD). People with some underlying medical conditions and seniors (65 years of age and older) are at higher risk of IPD and should receive the pneumococcal vaccine if not previously vaccinated.

Shingles vaccine

Shingles is a painful skin rash with blisters, usually on part of one side of the body. It is triggered by the same virus that causes varicella (chicken pox). Any person who has had varicella in the past can get shingles, but most people who get the disease are older than 50 or have a weakened immune system. One dose of shingles vaccine is recommended for adults 50 years of age and older.

Knowledge, attitudes and beliefs

Most adults (91%) reported that they knew enough about vaccines to make a decision about getting vaccinated.

Regarding the flu, most of the respondents believed that getting sick with the flu can be serious and that the flu can affect many people.

While 87% of individuals agreed that the flu shot is safe, there are still 43% of respondents who believed they might get the flu from the flu vaccine – which is not true for any flu shot in Canada.

Two thirds of respondents (69%) agreed that the opinion of their family doctor, general practitioner or nurse practitioner is an important part of their decision for getting the flu shot.

To summarize:

Flu vaccination coverage in adults was higher in 2018/19 than in previous seasons.

Although the national flu vaccination coverage goals (80%) for those at higher risk remain unmet, flu shot uptake among seniors is approaching this goal (70%).

The most common reason for getting the flu shot was to prevent infection or avoid getting sick, whereas the most common reason for non-vaccination was the perception that the vaccine was not necessary. In fact, these recommended vaccines give adults the protection they need to stay healthy.

While a greater proportion of seniors reported having received a pneumococcal vaccine in adulthood compared to younger adults, the number still fell short of the national goal of 80%.

Additional information:

A full report of the survey results is available. For more information about the Seasonal Influenza Coverage Survey and the adult National Immunization Coverage Survey (aNICS), or to obtain the report in an alternative format, please contact us at:

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