MONTREAL—With the flu season beginning earlier than usual this year, public health officials are urging everyone to get vaccinated, and for those who fall into the high-risk group, the flu shot is free.

For those not in the high-risk group, the shot can be had at a clinic for a small fee. Physicians remind people to cough into their elbows and wash their hands often.

“What can you say? I'm certainly not afraid of needles and I just think it's important. Who wants the flu? That's the main thing, I think,” said Claire Dubois, after she was vaccinated.

For Dubois, the flu shot is quick, easy and essential. Especially during a year when the virus is spreading early.

“We have had three early seasons since 1998, but this one is one of our earliest,” said Dr. Renee Pare, from Montreal’s public health department.

CLSCs across the city are offering free shots to people at high risk, they don't even need an appointment—they just have to show up.

“The most vulnerable clients are elderly clients—anybody over the age of 60; clients who are very young—so children six to 23 months; pregnant women; people suffering from obesity, and any people who are in contact with the at-risk clientele,” said Dalia Toledano, the vaccination program manager for the West Island CSSS.

Flu clinics in the West Island have been particularly busy, with nurses vaccinating an average of 500 people a day.

“Last year we did about 17,000. I'm sure this year we'll reach about 20,000 of our West Island population for this campaign,” said Toledano.

Health officials are urging people who come down with flu symptoms—such as a fever with a cough—not to rush to the emergency room.

“Before getting to the emergency, you can call 811—Info Sante—to have the good advice of all the experienced nurses there,” said Pare.

If you're part of the high-risk group eligible for a free flu shot, visit to find out where you can get it.