With close to four million British Columbians now being fully vaccinated for COVID-19, health officials hope that will translate into more people rolling up their sleeves to get a flu shot.
Last year, pharmacists in B.C. administered more than a million doses of flu vaccine, up sharply from the 724,256 flu shots received in 2019. But that still represents less than one-quarter of B.C.’s population.
To increase those numbers, the B.C. government is making seasonal influenza vaccines free for everyone aged six months and up.
Last winter B.C. Centre for Disease Control tested thousands of people with respiratory symptoms for COVID-19 and influenza and found few influenza infections, as pandemic precautions such as masks and handwashing kept the virus from spreading.
“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,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
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.
People are encouraged to get the flu shot every year as the vaccine only lasts about a year and people’s antibodies wane over time and vaccine strains change year after year.
It is estimated that the vaccine reduces the risk of infection by a dominating flu strain by 70 per cent — meaning you could still get sick from non-dominant strain.
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