In this Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020 file photo, a patient receives an influenza vaccine in Mesquite, Texas. Parents are concerned about getting kids vaccinated but also worried about overcrowding at clinics and transmission of COVID. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/LM Otero

In this Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020 file photo, a patient receives an influenza vaccine in Mesquite, Texas. Parents are concerned about getting kids vaccinated but also worried about overcrowding at clinics and transmission of COVID. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/LM Otero

Flu vaccine orders up in Canada as simultaneous COVID and flu infections feared

Recent study shows the pandemic may be pushing more people to get flu vaccine

Pamela Hardy will be getting her 11-year-old twins vaccinated against flu as soon as an immunization program begins but she’s worried about how public health officials will deal with any overcrowding at clinics to reduce transmission of COVID-19.

“The main concern is accessing the vaccine and not having long lineups,” Hardy said in an interview from Coquitlam, B.C.

The Public Health Agency of Canada expects higher demand for influenza vaccines amid a possible double whammy of COVID-19 and flu infections. It’s recommending provinces and territories consider alternate ways to deliver immunization programs this season.

Spokeswoman Maryse Durette said the agency has ordered 13 million doses of the flu vaccine compared with 11.2 million last year.

A study by University of British Columbia researchers published recently in the Journal of Pediatrics suggests the COVID-19 pandemic may be motivating more parents to get their children vaccinated for flu.

It found that was the case for 54 per cent of parents, up 16 percentage points from last year, among 3,000 families surveyed in Canada, the United States, Japan, Israel, Spain and Switzerland.

READ MORE: Pandemic could be driving more parents to get on board with flu shot: study

Hardy said she’s expecting health officials to provide early and widespread information about where flu vaccines will be available, especially because working parents who rely on high-risk grandparents for childcare will want to ensure their families are immunized.

“I think they need to go across all platforms because not everyone uses Facebook, especially older generations, and not everyone uses Twitter,” said Hardy.

Countries including Australia in the Southern Hemisphere have experienced lower than usual flu infections this year, likely due to COVID-19 precautions, such as mask wearing, physical distancing and higher immunization rates for flu.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization, which is part of the Public Health Agency of Canada, has recommended provinces and territories take steps to allay fears about exposure to COVID-19 for those accessing immunization for influenza.

“This fall, jurisdictions should consider a wide range of strategies to deliver influenza vaccine, with the goal of reducing crowding while maintaining or increasing vaccine uptake,” the committee says in its guidelines.

Alternate models include allowing pharmacists or paramedics to provide immunization in provinces or territories where legislation does not permit it.

“If demand is high, potential vaccine supply limitations may affect the decision to use some alternate delivery models,” the committee says.

It’s recommending multiple smaller clinics be held to avoid larger numbers of people and for health-care providers to take opportunities to immunize patients and those accompanying them during discharge from hospital, for example.

It also suggests vaccines be provided during senior shopping hours at pharmacies in grocery stores or outdoors, including in drive-through clinics and parking lots as well as at living centres, such as retirement homes, shelters and group homes.

British Columbia’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said flu rates in the Southern Hemisphere are a “slight glimmer of hope” but they do not always reflect what happens in the Northern Hemisphere so vaccination against flu is important, especially for high-risk populations like seniors who are also vulnerable to COVID-19.

“My message to people in British Columbia is we all need to do our part to stop influenza this year as well and that means getting the flu shot, even if this is the first time you’ve ever had it,” she said, adding the province is working to mount a strong campaign in an effort to increase immunization for flu.

“It’s for your own protection but it’s also for our community because we need to tell the difference between influenza and COVID and right now it’s easy, we don’t have a lot of influenza. But going into the fall that’s going to be our challenge.”

Dr. Monika Naus, medical director of the communicable diseases and immunization service at the BC Centre for Disease Control, said the province has ordered two million doses of several types of flu vaccine, up from 1.5 million doses last season.

Alberta Health spokesman Tom McMillan said a record amount of vaccine has been ordered this year, up by 23 per cent from last season.

“We are currently developing new policies to address physical distancing and other public health measures that may be necessary this year as a result of the pandemic,” McMillan said.

Ontario’s Health Ministry has ordered an additional 300,000 doses and is exploring the purchase of more, said spokesman David Jensen.

READ MORE: Study says flu vaccine protected most people during unusual influenza season

Naus said only about 60 per cent of seniors typically get vaccinated but that decreases to 50 per cent for people with chronic heart and lung disease.

“Somebody with both influenza and COVID will be more ill,” Naus said, noting people with any type of respiratory sickness would be required to stay home and may have to get tested to rule out the novel coronavirus.

“The overall burden on the population, on the health-care system, on testing, all of that, will be reduced if we can have more people vaccinated to prevent flu transmission.”

Entire families will be encouraged to get vaccinated together, in contrast to testing for COVID-19, Naus said, adding B.C. is expected to start receiving shipments of flu vaccine in mid-September, with long-term care residents and health-care workers given priority.

Unlike last year, a nasal-spray form of the flu shot will be available in Canada for children between ages two and 17, she said, adding it’s a good option for those who fear needles.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusflu season

Just Posted

The Victoria International Airport saw its revenues plummet in 2020. Officials hope a proposed warehouse will be a significant revenue generator. (Black Press Media file photo)
Head of Victoria Airport Authority makes economic pitch for Sidney warehouse project

Geoff Dickson said Sidney stands to earn $325,000 in annual taxes

Participants take part in a previous Walk for Alzheimer’s. This year’s event is being held virtually and participants are asked to set a walking or fitness challenge during May. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria residents invited to set fitness challenge for Alzheimer’s

IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer’s goes virtual during the month of May

Troy Patterson, a Cadboro Bay 15-year-old, got a virtual meeting with B.C.’s environment minister months after he started an online petition calling for construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline to stop. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Cadboro Bay teen meets with minister after advocacy against Coastal GasLink

15-year-old Claremont student and George Heyman discussed the project for about 30 minutes

The City of Victoria hopes to improve its cultural spaces this year and it wants non-profits to help. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Grants up to $125,000 open to Victoria non-profit arts and cultural organizations

Victoria Cultural Infrastructure Grant applications close at the end of May

Sofia Watts, Charlotte Magill and Harriet Knight were among the KELSET Elementary School students releasing salmon fry into Reay Creek May 7. (Ian Bruce/Submitted)
Saanich Peninsula elementary students help restock, clean up local creeks

Salmon fry releases took place at Reay Creek and Tetayut Creek

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Most Read