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Provincial health officer says RSV vaccine could be available for next flu season

Health Canada has approved the vaccine for use in those who are pregnant, offering protection to both mother and baby
Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, at a respiratory illness update in December. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

B.C.’s provincial health officer says she’s hopeful a vaccine against a respiratory virus that can lead to serious complications will be publicly available during the next flu season.

Respiratory syncytial virus or RSV can be like a cold but mild and highly contagious, but it can also lead to complications such as pneumonia or bronchiolitis, usually in the very young and old. Outbreaks of RSV typically occur in late fall and early spring.

People more likely to have problems with RSV include babies younger than six months, those who are immune-compromised or have heart or lung problems, and adults older than 65, according to HealthLinkBC.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said at a news conference on Wednesday that Health Canada has approved a new RSV vaccine for use in those who are pregnant.

The shot provides protection not only to the pregnant person but for the baby in his or her first few months of life, she said. “I’m really excited about this. It’s one we’ve been watching for a long time.”

The vaccine is available in the United States and privately in Canada, but there’s been a relatively limited supply globally.

“So it’s not yet been marketed in Canada, but we’re watching very carefully and so I am hopeful that we will have a program for both the vaccine available for seniors and for pregnant people available for people in B.C. by next respiratory season.”

Henry said cases of influenza A and RSV are high across B.C. and are expected to peak in the next week or so.

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