Ontario's chief medical officer of health says this respiratory virus season should be easier on the province and its hospitals than last year, but success will largely depend on levels of vaccination.

Ontario residents who are six months and older can receive a free flu shot and an updated COVID-19 vaccine starting today.

Dr. Kieran Moore says it is safe and convenient to get both shots at the same time, saying he has his own appointment booked for today.

New COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna were approved by Health Canada earlier this fall and are designed to target the XBB COVID-19 variant.

The province says those who are six months and older can receive their new COVID-19 shot if six months have passed since their last vaccine dose or confirmed infection.

Last fall and winter, high levels of COVID-19, the flu and respiratory syncytial virus overwhelmed hospitals, particularly children's hospitals, but Moore says while levels of RSV are on the rise at the moment and COVID-19 is still having a "significant" impact on the health system, flu season hasn't yet started.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 30, 2023.