Ottawa Public Health (OPH) expects the 2023/2024 respiratory season to be atypical when compared to pre-pandemic years, with early activity of respiratory viruses such as influenza (flu) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) circulating simultaneously with COVID-19. OPH recommends that everyone 6 months and older get the annual flu vaccine and the updated XBB 1.5-containing COVID-19 mRNA vaccine. Flu and COVID-19 vaccines are particularly recommended for people at high risk of severe illness from flu and/or COVID-19 as well as health care workers and first responders.
Consistent with the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), the Ministry of Health recommends that individuals receive a dose of the updated COVID-19 vaccine if it has been 6 months since their last COVID-19 vaccine or known COVID-19 infection. People who have not previously received a COVID-19 vaccine may also receive the updated COVID-19 vaccine. The updated vaccine is expected to produce a stronger immune response against COVID-19 variants currently circulating in the community.
Ottawa Public Health received the first shipment of the updated COVID-19 vaccine and flu vaccines the week of September 25, 2023, and began distributing these to hospitals and long-term care homes. OPH will offer the annual influenza (flu) vaccines and the updated XBB. 1.5-containing COVID-19 mRNA vaccines in its OPH Community Clinics, beginning with high-risk groups as follows:
Effective October 11, 2023, flu vaccines and the updated COVID-19 vaccines will be available for eligible residents, including:
- Health care workers and first responders
- Individuals at high-risk for influenza (flu) and/or COVID-19 related complications or hospitalization including:
- Residents and staff of congregate living settings (e.g., chronic care facilities, retirement homes)
- Pregnant individuals
- Individuals who are 65 years of age or older
- First Nation, Inuit or Métis people and their household members
- All children 6 months to under 5 years of age
- Individuals 6 months of age and older with underlying health conditions per NACI
- Members of racialized and equity-deserving communities
Effective October 30, 2023, flu vaccines and the updated COVID-19 vaccines will be available for all residents.
In addition to OPH Community Clinics, there are many options for getting your flu and updated COVID-19 vaccine:
- Check with your regular health care provider to see if they offer the vaccines;
- Visit your nearest pharmacy to get your vaccines (pharmacies continue to be a main point of access for flu vaccines); or
- Visit an OPH Neighbourhood Health and Wellness Hub, if you face barriers to access, for vaccines on a walk-in basis.
To book your appointment for the updated COVID-19 vaccine:
COVID-19 vaccine appointments at OPH Community Clinics can be booked through the Ontario COVID-19 vaccination portal or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900 (TTY: 1-866-797-0007).
To book your appointment for your annual flu vaccine:
Flu vaccine appointments at OPH Community Clinics can be booked through the Ottawa Public Health website.
Ottawa Public Health wants to remind Ottawa residents that there are simple and effective ways to help protect yourself, your families and our communities against respiratory illness. Some people in our community are at a higher risk of severe illness. Minor symptoms for one person could be a life-threatening illness for another. Using the following layers of protection helps keep everyone safe:
- Washing your hands (or using hand sanitizer) often and avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
- Disinfecting high-touch surfaces in your home and workplace.
- Staying home when you are sick.
- Wearing a mask:
- To protect yourself from viral respiratory illnesses;
- To protect others at higher risk of severe respiratory illness from getting sick; and
- When you’re recovering from illness.
- Staying up to date on your vaccines.
Ottawa Public Health wants to continue to ensure high priority populations have access to rapid antigen test (RAT) kits so that people who test positive can access treatment in a timely manner. Residents are able to access RAT kits through various locations across the city, like libraries and existing OPH services, like neighbourhood hubs and community clinics. Local health partners and community agencies can order RAT kits through OPH, while provincial supplies last. Individuals who are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 and test positive on a RAT are encouraged to speak with their primary healthcare provider or local pharmacist about treatment.
For more information on respiratory illness, including vaccination and treatment, please visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca/RespVirus, call 613-580-6744 or call 3-1-1 after hours.