Health officials in British Columbia are encouraging everybody over the age of six months to be immunized for this coming flu season.
On Wednesday afternoon, Premier John Horgan, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, and Health Minister Adrian Dix unveiled the province’s COVID-19 pandemic preparedness plan for fall.
Part of the plan includes launching one of the largest influenza campaigns that BC has experienced.
“Our fall influenza campaign is going to be on a scale that we have not yet seen,” says Henry. “We encourage everybody who’s over the age of six months to be immunized for influenza.”
Health officials say that nearly two million doses of influenza vaccine have been secured for the coming fall and winter, 45,000 of which are the high dose Fluzone vaccine — stronger doses that work specifically for elders and seniors.
Henry says that they’ll be looking at how to distribute immunization effectively in communities, such as through physician’s and doctor’s offices, through pharmacists, in the healthcare sector, and through public health clinics across the province.
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Part of the reasoning for securing an increased number of doses was also based on the influenza season in the southern hemisphere. While flu season in the northern hemisphere generally starts in October and November and peaks around December and January, the southern hemisphere just passed its peak.
“The good news is that their immunization rates are very high,” Henry explains. “This is one of the things that we recognized early and has triggered us to purchase more vaccines here.”
Health officials also say that some of the pre-existing measures for coronavirus, such as physical distancing and increased hand hygiene, should also protect British Columbians from other respiratory infections.
One of the main challenges for BC’s healthcare system this fall and winter will be managing both the normal demand of visitors from influenza as well as the number of coronavirus cases that occur.
Henry stresses that by receiving an influenza immunization, it reduces the strain on the healthcare system and limits the number of hospitalizations.
“The other thing that it does is help reduce the impact on our healthcare system because we know when people are infected by influenza,” she explains. “Particularly we know influenza makes younger people and older people more severely ill and can lead to hospitalization both from the infection and because influenza can exacerbate some of those conditions we have.”