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Ottawa Public Health and local hospitals urge residents to get their updated COVID-19 and annual flu vaccines

December 14, 2023 – Ottawa Public Health (OPH) and local hospitals including: The Ottawa Hospital, Queensway Carleton Hospital, Hôpital Montfort, CHEO, Bruyère, The Royal and the University of Ottawa Heart Institute are urging eligible residents, especially those at higher risk, to receive their updated COVID-19 vaccine and annual influenza (flu) vaccine as soon as possible. This reminder comes as OPH is noting that the highest rates of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 continue to be in older adults. Wastewater levels of COVID-19 and hospitalizations are higher now than they were at this time last year. Additionally, OPH is now declaring the start of the flu season in Ottawa. Declaration of flu season is based on influenza test percent positivity surpassing the threshold of 5% for two weeks in a row.

Ottawa Public Health’s Medical Officer of Health and local hospital Chiefs of Staff want to remind everyone, but especially people at higher risk, to get their vaccines as soon as possible – this includes both the updated XBB 1.5-containing COVID-19 mRNA vaccine and the annual flu vaccine.

People at higher risk of severe illness or complications from COVID-19 and the flu include:

  • People who are 60 years and older, pregnant, have chronic medical conditions or are immunocompromised.
  • Young children (under 5) are at higher risk of complications from the flu.

Vaccination continues to be one of the best ways for people to help protect themselves against severe outcomes from COVID-19 and flu, including hospitalization. It is safe and convenient to receive both the COVID-19 vaccine and flu vaccine at the same time, reducing the need for multiple visits. Residents can get their vaccines at their local pharmacy. Please contact your local pharmacy, regular health care provider or visit for vaccine appointment bookings.

We expect respiratory illness activity across the city to increase this winter, with COVID-19, influenza (flu) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) circulating at the same time. Respiratory illnesses can have a significant impact on overall well-being and cause unnecessary strain to our health care system. We urge individuals and communities to prioritize respiratory health through proactive measures and informed choices.

  • Stay up to date on your vaccines – including your updated COVID-19 vaccine and annual flu vaccine.
  • Stay home when sick – stay home until you are fever-free (without the use of fever-reducing medications) AND your symptoms have been improving for 24 hours (48 hours for vomiting/diarrhea).
  • Do not visit loved ones in hospital, long term care or retirement homes when you have symptoms.
  • Wash your hands often and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
  • Disinfect high-touch surfaces in your home and workplace.
  • Wear a mask – wear a mask to protect yourself from respiratory viruses, to protect others at high risk, and when recovering from illness.

By adopting simple yet effective public health measures, we can collectively build a resilient defense against these respiratory viruses. Visit for more information on reducing the spread, vaccines, and what to do if you’re sick – including where to get treatment for COVID-19.

Medical Officer of Health:

Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa Public Health
Chiefs of Staff & Deputy Director General:
Bruyère, Dr. Shaun McGuire, Chief of Staff
CHEO, Dr. Lindy Samson, Chief of Staff
Hôpital Montfort, Dr. Thierry Daboval, Chief of Staff
Queensway Carleton Hospital, Dr. Kathi Kovacs, Chief of Staff
The Ottawa Hospital, Dr. Virginia Roth, Chief of Staff
The Royal, Dr. Gail Beck, Chief of Staff
University of Ottawa Heart Institute, Dr. Rob Beanlands, Deputy Director General

Media Inquiries: 

Ottawa Public Health, 
Hôpital Montfort,
Queensway Carleton Hospital,
The Ottawa Hospital, 
The Royal, 
University of Ottawa Heart Institute, 


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