British Columbia’s top doctor and health minister are encouraging the public to get an updated COVID-19 and influenza vaccine as clinics and hospitals across the province see an uptick in patients with respiratory symptoms.
While COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths have decreased since their October peak, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said cases of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are on the rise.
“We are well into respiratory season and it’s looking much more like the typical seasons we used to have prior to the pandemic, with peaks particularly of influenza and RSV,” Henry said.
“But influenza — we tend to see peaks after the holiday period in late December, early January — so now is the time when we can take preventative measures to stop that peak.”
The update comes one week after B.C. pharmacists renewed a push for people in the province to get vaccinated as well.
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,” Pharmasave wrote on Dec. 4.
As of Dec. 10, health-care providers and pharmacists had administered more than 1.4 million flu vaccines and nearly 1.3 million COVID vaccines as part of B.C.’s the fall push.
While Health Minister Adrian Dix said B.C.’s uptake on the COVID-19 vaccines is “twice as high” as it is in Ontario, and “well above” any other jurisdiction in Canada, heaps of appointment slots across the province remain un-booked.
“There are, in some health authorities, a 90-per-cent availability of appointments to get vaccinated here in British Columbia,” he said Monday.
“We are doing better than everywhere else, but that doesn’t help you if you haven’t been vaccinated.”
To help prepare for the influx of respiratory patients, Dix said a total of 729 beds have been added to hospitals across the province, with additional surge beds at the ready as well.
Right now, more than 10,000 people are in hospitals in B.C.
“We’ve put in place access and float teams for all hospitals, seven days a week,” Dix said. “I think throughout the system we’re better prepared than we have been at any time to deal with a large number of patients.”
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.
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 decreased in B.C. between early October and early December. As of Dec. 7, some 182 patients were in the hospital with a COVID-19 infection. The virus continues to be associated with dozens of deaths.
Between June 4 and Dec. 2, 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.