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.

 

Just Posted

Single parent resource centre continues operations in partially-condemned building

Victoria’s 1Up Single Parent Resource Centre moves back into heritage home

Sunny skies in Monday’s forecast

Plus a look ahead at your week

Townhouses on the rise in popularity in Greater Victoria

A report finds 152 townhouse units in the construction pipeline and coming onto market in 2020.

Annual Oak Bay Collector Car Festival expects 15,000 spectators

July 28 show features a pair of super cars that won prestigious awards at the Detroit Autorama show

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Vancouver Island teens missing after vehicle found ablaze near Dease Lake, BC

RCMP say a body discovered nearby not one of the missing teens

A year later, ceremony commemorates victims of the Danforth shooting

It’s the one-year anniversary of when a man opened fire along the bustling street before shooting and killing himself

Japanese Canadians call on B.C. to go beyond mere apology for historic racism

The federal government apologized in 1988 for its racism against ‘enemy aliens’

B.C. VIEWS: NDP pushes ahead with Crown forest redistribution

This isn’t the time for a radical Indigenous rights agenda

Two dead in two-vehicle crash between Revelstoke and Golden

RCMP are investigating the cause of the crash

Ottawa fights planned class action against RCMP for bullying, intimidation

The current case is more general, applying to employees, including men, who worked for the RCMP

Alberta judge denies B.C.’s bid to block ‘Turn Off the Taps’ bill

He said the proper venue for the disagreement is Federal Court

Most Read