More flu vaccine given to pharmacists, doctors so far this year

Three weeks into Island Health’s annual flu-shot campaign, the amount of vaccine distributed to pharmacists and doctors is up over the same period in 2017.

There have been 235,984 doses sent to health professionals, up more than 10,000 doses from last year’s three-week total of 225,621. That follows an upward trend in the number of people getting vaccinated.

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“We always order a little bit more over the years,” said Dr. Dee Hoyano, a medical health officer with Island Health.

The overall number of doses given in the 2017-18 flu season topped 275,000.

Island Health also reports a slight increase in the number of adults and children immunized by public-health nurses at the three-week mark — up to 10,280 from 10,266 last year.

There is still time to get a shot in the optimum early-season window, Hoyano said.

“Ideally, we like to see everyone who’s going to get vaccinated do it the next couple of weeks before you get into December, because that’s usually when we start seeing more flu activity happening,” she said.

Flu cases in 2017-18 extended into April, but Hoyano said the season is typically between December and March.

She said health officials are waiting to see how severe the 2018-19 flu season will be and which strains will dominate. This season’s vaccine covers two A strains and a B strain. As in most seasons, it is expected to be from 40 to 60 per cent effective.

“Right now, the flu results that we do have are showing that the majority of them are influenza A, H1N1 strain,” Hoyano said.

Hoyano said she got her shot a few weeks ago. “It reduces your risk of getting the flu and also being able to pass it on to others,” she said.

Flu shots cost $25, but are free for children six months to five years, people 65 and older, and those at a high risk of complications from the flu due to heart disease, cancer and other conditions.

Each year in Canada, there are about 3,500 flu-related deaths and 12,200 hospital stays.

The free vaccine is available from public health clinics, some doctor’s offices and most pharmacies.

Those not eligible for the free vaccine can purchase it at most pharmacies and travel clinics.

To find an influenza vaccine clinic near you, go to immunizebc.ca/clinics.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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