As the seasons change and respiratory illnesses begin to rear their heads, British Columbia is gearing up for a fight against the combined threats of the flu and COVID-19. The province has launched an immunization campaign to ensure that its residents are well-protected. In this blog post, we will delve into the details of this campaign, how it aims to combat the rising trends in respiratory illnesses, and what you need to know about getting vaccinated in B.C.
The Rising Respiratory Illness Trends
The backdrop for this immunization campaign is a concerning uptick in respiratory illnesses. COVID-19 hospitalizations have surged, with 24 deaths in the last week of September (2023) alone. The British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) reported a staggering 58% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations for the two weeks starting September 21. New infections are also on the rise, with a significant spike in cases among individuals aged 60 and older. These alarming statistics underscore the importance of vaccination in the fight against respiratory diseases.
The immunization campaign was announced late last month as Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry reintroduced mask mandates in health-care settings across the province. This decision was prompted by the increasing prevalence of respiratory illnesses. Dr. Monika Naus, the medical director of immunization programs and vaccine-preventable diseases service at the BCCDC, emphasized the specificity of vaccines. She highlighted that while a recent COVID-19 infection might boost immunity against COVID-19, it won’t provide protection against influenza. Therefore, individuals who have recently had a confirmed COVID-19 infection are still encouraged to get the flu shot.
In a written statement, the drugstore chain Pharmasave expressed its anticipation of increased demand for vaccines administered by pharmacies this year. Patients have increasingly turned to pharmacists for treating common ailments since the province authorized it in June. This accessibility to vaccines through pharmacies is expected to play a crucial role in the success of the immunization campaign.
The B.C. government’s COVID-19 immunization webpage outlines the plan for vaccine distribution. Invitations to book an appointment for the COVID and flu vaccines will be sent out by email and text to those who have previously received a shot. Priority groups, including individuals aged 65 and older, residents in long-term care facilities, Indigenous people, pregnant individuals, healthcare workers, and those with chronic health conditions, will be the first to receive these invitations.
B.C. residents can also call the provincial call centre’s “Get Vaccinated” system at 1-833-838-2323 to book their appointments. Additionally, some B.C. pharmacies may offer COVID-19 and influenza shots at walk-in clinics. Residents can use these clinics to get vaccinated, provided it has been at least six months since their last COVID-19 dose. While booking through the call center or the “Get Vaccinated” system is encouraged, individual pharmacies may also book appointments directly with their customers using the “Get Vaccinated” system, depending on availability and eligibility.
British Columbia’s immunization campaign is a proactive response to the increasing threat of respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19 and the flu. By making vaccines readily available at pharmacies and prioritizing specific groups, the province aims to curb the rising trends and protect its residents. If you are eligible, don’t hesitate to get vaccinated – it’s a crucial step in safeguarding your health and that of your community during the upcoming respiratory illness season.
Stay tuned for updates and make sure to stay informed about the immunization campaign in B.C., as it plays a pivotal role in safeguarding public health.
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