British Columbia health officials say a weekend influenza vaccine “blitz” has helped edge the percentage of children immunized against the flu upward, but nearly three-quarters of young kids remain unvaccinated.
In a Monday media release, the Ministry of Health said 77,500 people had received the vaccine between Dec. 5 and 11. About 30 per cent of British Columbians aged six months and older have now been vaccinated.
Just over 9,000 of those vaccinated over the past week were kids aged six months to four years. That raises the percentage of kids in the age bracket who are vaccinated to 26.3 per cent, up from 21.2 per cent last Monday.
Officials were less successful at vaccinating other youth. The portion of immunized kids aged five to 11 years climbed by climbed by 3.1 per cent, and the portion of immunized youth aged 12 to 17 years climbed by 2.3 per cent.
During the weekend blitz, which included walk-in clinics, the ministry said it immunized 5,581 kids aged six months to four years, 7,075 kids aged five to 11 years, 3,181 tweens and teens aged 12 to 17 years and 26,745 people aged 18 years and older.
Data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control for the week ending Dec. 3 showed that children aged five to nine years were the largest group of people with flu symptoms presenting to health-care facilities (2.3 per cent of visits), followed by youth aged 10 to 14 years (1.4 per cent), children younger than four years old (1.3 per cent) and teens aged 15 to 19 years (0.8 per cent of visits).
Vaccinating children and youth has become a key priority after the government acknowledged six flu-related deaths among the age bracket so far this season. Some of the deaths are believed to have been caused by related bacterial infections.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said last week that none of the youth who died were believed to have received the vaccine.
The province said last week that it was closely monitoring severe flu cases among children and youth, and that it would begin reporting fatalities weekly.
Officials are urging anyone who is sick to stay home, and to wear masks if they are experiencing mild symptoms.
Anyone can book a free flu vaccine through the province’s online immunization portal.
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