The B.C. government is making seasonal influenza vaccines free for everyone aged six months and up in an effort to reduce the impact of respiratory illness in a health care system grappling with COVID-19.
Pharmacies have begun their annual seasonal flu shot program, and Health Minister Adrian Dix says the province has purchased a record number of doses as the winter flu season approaches. Last winter B.C. Centre for Disease Control testing of thousands of people with respiratory symptoms for COVID-19 and influenza and found few influenza infections, as pandemic precautions such as masks and hand washing kept the virus from spreading, but provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry warns that is a mixed blessing.
“This year, it’s especially important for people to get vaccinated against influenza,” Henry said Oct. 19. “Last year’s low influenza rates means our immunity against influenza is lower than usual. Getting your influenza vaccine this year is more important than ever to protect yourself, your community and our overstretched health-care system.”
Pharmacies are the main deliverer of influenza vaccines, which are also being delivered along with COVID-19 booster shots to people with compromised immune systems and residents of senior care home. The health ministry has a map to find locations for flu shots here.
Dr. Matthew Chow, president of Doctors of B.C., urged people to take advantage of the influenza vaccine program, which was previously offered free to people in high-risk groups and those in contact with senior friends and relatives.
“Getting the influenza shot protects you, protects your loved ones, and takes pressure off our health-care system at a critical time,” Chow said. “Remember to wear a mask as directed, wash your hands before touching your face and eating, and stay home when sick.”