‘It’s not too late’: B.C. pharmacists renew push for respiratory season vaccine uptake

Click to play video: 'People urged to get vaccinated as flu season is officially underway'
People urged to get vaccinated as flu season is officially underway
On Friday, the Public Health Agency of Canada declared the flu season had officially begun in B.C., and pharmacists are now urging everyone who hasn't already done so to get their vaccines. Richard Zussman reports. – Dec 4, 2023

Pharmacists in B.C. are renewing a push for public vaccination as a seasonal uptick in flu and COVID-19 cases continues.

British Columbian adults are “getting behind on critical immunizations, putting lives at risk and potentially burdening the health-care system heading into peak respiratory virus season,” states a Monday news release from Pharmasave.

“It’s not too late to get vaccinated against circulating viruses, things like flu and COVID, respiratory illnesses,” pharmacist Christine Antler, regional director for Pharmasave, said in an interview.

Click to play video: 'B.C. COVID-19, flu vaccine rollout begins'
B.C. COVID-19, flu vaccine rollout begins

She also encouraged residents to examine their vaccination records in search of any gaps.

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“There are a lot of other vaccines that British Columbians might not be aware of that they’re eligible for — things like shingles vaccines, pneumonia vaccines, tetanus, just to protect themselves and protect their loved ones.”

According to Statistics Canada, some 53 per cent of British Columbians over 65 are vaccinated against pneumonia — a sharp contrast from the federal government’s goal of 80 per cent vaccine coverage.

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The BC Centre for Disease Control further reports that uptake on the province’s fall COVID-19 immunization campaign is hovering at 21.1 per cent as of November.

Click to play video: 'Health Matters: Common vaccination questions'
Health Matters: Common vaccination questions

Health Minister Adrix Dix described B.C. as “leading Canada” with its seasonal COVID and flu vaccine regime, having started its campaign nine days earlier than most other provinces. More than 1.4 million flu shots and 1.2 million COVID-19 shots have been delivered through the rollout, he said.

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The minister still encouraged more people to get vaccinated, and like Pharmsave, said there’s no better time than now — before holiday gatherings that increase people’s exposure and bring them into tight indoor quarters.

While record hiring is taking place in the health-care system, record numbers of people are also calling in sick, he added.

“People might feel like they’re healthy and there’s no need to get vaccinated, but what we’ve seen is vaccine-preventable illnesses are still a risk,” Antler said.

Influenza and pneumonia are both on Statistics Canada’s list of leading causes of death in the country between 2019 and 2022. COVID-19 was third on that list.

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Hospitalizations for COVID-19 decreased in B.C. between early October at the end of November. As of Nov. 30, some 174 patients were in the hospital with a COVID-19 infection. The virus continues to be associated with dozens of deaths.

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Between May 28 and Nov. 25, of those who died within 30 days of testing positive for the virus, 41 per cent had COVID-19 identified as their underlying cause of death.

“It can affect anyone,” said Dix. “We know of very, very healthy people in what we call the prime of their lives — athletes — who have been both deeply affected by both the flu and COVID-19 in their lives.

“But if you have a grandparent, if you have a parent, if you have anyone with chronic disease, then you’re being safer makes them safer as well. So we have to keep pushing.”

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— with files from Richard Zussman

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