B.C.’s record total of influenza vaccine delivery has reached 1.4 million, with most of those administered by community pharmacists whose expertise will soon be needed for the more ambitious COVID-19 vaccination campaign.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said the expanded influenza vaccination effort that began last fall has seen more than one million shots given by pharmacists, an increase from 724,000 they gave out in the 2019-20 winter flu season. The province will call on their experience and familiarity with seniors in the community to deliver two-dose COVID-19 vaccine to more than four million people by the end of this year.
“Pharmacists have played a central role, more so than ever, in our influenza vaccine campaign this year, and we are very appreciative of that role and we know that pharmacists are going to play a critical role as we deal with immunizations in the months to come,” Dix said Feb. 16.
Dix said testing for influenza continues at a higher than normal level, as public health staff distinguish between the various strains of seasonal flu and the novel coronavirus that can exhibit similar symptoms of respiratory illness. Testing to date shows little evidence of community transmission of influenza, he said.
The B.C. government secured an extra 450,000 influenza vaccine doses last fall as part of its preparations for COVID-19, bringing the total to two million doses. Influenza typically drives an increase in hospital admissions each fall and winter, peaking at about 15 per cent of hospital admissions by February.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control reported that influenza testing up to Jan. 9 produced seven positive results in 30,000 tests, showing 12 different strains of seasonal influenza. But each of the seven people who tested positive had received the live attenuated influenza vaccine, “suggesting vaccine-type rather than wild-type virus” that was contracted in the community, the BCCDC said.