Record number of flu shots given in BC and the north, say health officials

·3 min read

Northern Health has already received more influenza vaccines in 2020 than it administered during the whole flu season last year, with more vaccines on the way, according to a spokesperson for the health authority.

“There's been more interest in people getting their flu shot this year,” said Eryn Collins of Northern Health last week. “People were quite motivated.”

As of late November, the Ministry of Health had distributed more than two million flu shots to health authorities across the province, with about 77,000 doses allotted to the north. Last year, Northern Health distributed about 66,500 shots during the entire 2019/20 influenza season, which typically runs about November until early spring.

“We're doing record numbers of immunizations against influenza,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix last month.

As of Nov. 23, more than 1 million of the vaccines that had been distributed in the province were administered in arms, said Dix. More updated numbers were not available as there is a time lag between shots given and when they are reported to public health.

So far, more than 800,000 of the shots were given in the province by pharmacists, representing an increase of 300,000 shots compared to the same time last year, Dix said.

Primary care providers had administered 100,000 more flu vaccines in 2020 than by the same date in 2019 in B.C., he said.

“This is an extraordinary achievement,” said Dix.

Initially, public health officials recommended those who were highest risk should get their shots first, including seniors, people with chronic diseases, essential workers and others who could potentially transmit the flu to people vulnerable to infection.

“Those are well underway,” said Collins and everybody is encouraged to book an appointment with a flu clinic, local pharmacist, or primary care provider, depending where the vaccine is available in each community.

Initial heavy demand for the vaccine created temporary shortages in different parts of the north, but more vaccine doses are expected in December and additional clinic opportunities will be available, Collins said.

“Even though the current levels of flu activity in BC are extremely low right now, it is a very potentially serious illness for a lot of people,” said Collins.

Northern Health recommends people most at risk for severe symptoms due to the flu should get vaccinated, including those with heart, autoimmune, kidney, liver, and metabolic diseases such as diabetes, cancer patients, seniors, people who are obese, pregnant women, children under 5 years old, Indigenous people, and people working with poultry. Front line healthcare workers, visitors to long-term care or assisted living facilities, people living with high-risk individuals, and first responders are also encouraged to get the vaccine.

“It's never too late to get your flu shot,” said Collins. “Getting your flu shot now gives you the immunity that will carry you through influenza season.”

For more information, go to immunizebc.ca.

Fran@thegoatnews.ca / @FranYanor

Fran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Rocky Mountain Goat