An increase in serious illness in younger people from this winter's return of H1N1 influenza prompted many more people to get protection.

An increase in serious illness in younger people from this winter's return of H1N1 influenza prompted many more people to get protection.

1.4 million flu shots a B.C. record

The return of H1N1 and some severe cases involving younger people prompted a big increase in seasonal influenza vaccinations

It wasn’t as many as in the global H1N1 pandemic of 2009, but this year’s influenza vaccine program delivered a record 1.4 million seasonal doses to B.C. residents.

Resurgence of the H1N1 strain that triggered hospitalizations and deaths among younger patients motivated a late-season surge in demand for flu shots after Christmas, resulting in temporary shortages of vaccine in some areas.

Changes in policy also contributed to better protection agains seasonal flu, said Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall. Health care workers and visitors were required to get the vaccine or wear masks in patient care areas, to protect patients with underlying conditions that make influenza more serious.

After the health care worker immunization rate had drifted as low as 50 per cent, the new policy prompted 80 per cent of health care employees to be vaccinated and the remainder used masks, Kendall said Wednesday. One health care aide in Grand Forks was fired after repeatedly refusing to wear a mask when working around patients.

Health care unions argued against the policy but it was upheld in arbitration.

Health Minister Terry Lake said the total was increased by extending free flu shots to anyone who was considering visiting a relative in a health care facility during the winter. Previously seniors, children aged six months to five years, seniors over 65, residents of care and assisted living facilities, those with chronic conditions and health care and emergency workers were eligible for a free vaccine.

Lake said the ministry is considering offering the vaccine free to everyone in future years.

Kendall said the impact of H1N1 on younger people has been analyzed.

“The group over the age of 65 had the highest levels of residual immunity, perhaps from previous infection or previous vaccination, and the group who had the least immunity was 25- to 60-year-olds,” Kendall said. “So that was why we saw the shift of hospitalizations in a younger than expected age group.”

The World Health Organization tracks influenza strains around the world and estimates the strains for the coming year. The vaccine being produced for next winter includes H1N1 and common seasonal flus H3N2 and influenza B.

Kendall said research is proceeding for a universal vaccine, to eliminate the guesswork in crafting the annual strain. That could be available in five years.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

West Shore RCMP is asking for the public’s help in locating Mackenzie Courchene, a Langford teenager.
MISSING: Mackenzie Courchene last seen in Langford on March 2

West Shore RCMP is asking for the public’s help in locating the Langford teenager

Rendering of the proposed Esquimalt public safety building. (Courtesy Township of Esquimalt)
Esquimalt blazes new trail toward modern public safety building

Township using alternative approval process for first time to gauge public support for proposal

Landmarks such as Howard the giant gnome at Galey's Farm in Saanich make a stunning backdrop for celebratory dance in the Greater Victoria Festival Society trailer for its coming Dance Victoria campaign. (Screeshot/Greater Victoria Festival Society)
Residents’ videos help campaign Dance Across Victoria

Celebratory dance clips to be compiled into Greater Victoria Festival Society video

Reynolds Secondary School’s spring musical Freaky Friday features Grace Fouracre as teen Ellie Blake (left) who swaps bodies with her overworked mother, Katherine, played by Nadia Lurie. (Photo courtesy Reynolds Secondary School)
Saanich high school goes virtual with Freaky Friday musical

Reynolds Secondary theatre program to livestream performances March 9-12

Saanich Fire Department. Black Press Media File Photo
Fire displaces three Saanich families from two homes

Saanich firefighters found the fire had spread to a neighbouring home upon arriving

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

(Black Press Media files)
Medicine gardens help Victoria’s Indigenous kids in care stay culturally connected

Traditional plants brought to the homes of Indigenous kids amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Most Read