Families are being invited to drop in to immunization clinics this weekend as part of a provincewide blitz to get flu shots into as many B.C. children’s arms as possible in time for Christmas.
The province announced its plans during a media briefing held Monday (Dec. 5) with Health Minister Adrian Dix, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, and Dr. Penny Ballem, who’s in charge of B.C.’s vaccination program.
The planned vaccination push comes in response to rising numbers of respiratory illness in children — a spike that’s causing unprecedented demand for emergency departments and pediatric intensive care beds in provincial hospitals.
Henry said B.C. has seen a “dramatic increase” in influenza this season. The flu circulating in B.C. now is primarily the H3N2 strain of influenza A, which Henry noted causes more severe illness across the board, particularly in young children and older people. She warned it can also lead to secondary bacterial infections, which can then cause severe pneumonia.
The good news, Henry said, is that this year’s flu shot appears to be a “very good match” for the illness that’s circulating.
“We still have time to blunt the impact of this transmission by getting people vaccinated,” Henry said. “I cannot stress enough the importance of the influenza immunization right now, this year in particular, as the best protection we have against infection and virulent illness from influenza, and particularly for children, who we are seeing being affected right now.”
Just one in five B.C. children have flu shots as of Dec. 5
As of Monday’s briefing, vaccination rates among children and youth in B.C. remained low: 21 per cent for those aged six months to four years; 20 per cent for the five-to-11-year-olds; and 15 per cent for teenagers.
A provincial blitz starting this week is hoping to change that.
Ballem said the province is planning what she dubbed a “vaccifluoza” to reach as many families as possible in a short time.
“If you get Friday, Saturday and Sunday and get a vaccine, you're ready for two weeks away when your immune system has responded and you're moving into your holiday season with your family,” she said, adding the push is aimed at Dec. 9, 10 and 11. “There's a lot of effort being made to make sure that we we've got the vaccine available and it's in convenient places and that we're able to welcome families.”
Families are still being encouraged to register through B.C.’s Get Vaccinated system and schedule appointments once they receive an invitation to do so. This week, the province will be sending out invitations to about 150,000 families of children in the youngest age group, who haven’t previously been set up in the automated system.
Walk-in immunizations are also being made available to increase convenience for families.
Families will be able to ask for nasal spray vaccines for those children who have issues with needles, Ballem said.
Flu shots are free of charge for all B.C. residents aged six months and older. Fraser Health notes that families with children aged six months to 12 years old can walk in to public health units and immunization clinics without an appointment, capacity permitting.
Fraser Health — the health authority that encompasses communities from Burnaby and Delta out to Hope — has just released a list of walk-in flu shot clinics for families that will be providing flu immunizations this week and into the weekend.
Where to get a flu shot in Fraser Health (Metro Vancouver suburbs) this weekend
- Burnaby: 6615 Bonsor Ave., daily starting Dec. 7, 10:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.
- Coquitlam: 640 Poirier St., daily starting Dec. 7, 9:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.
- New Westminster: New West public health unit, 218-610 Sixth St. (Royal City Centre), Dec. 9 from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Dec. 10 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- North Delta: North Delta public health unit, 11245 84 Ave., Dec. 9 from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Dec. 10 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- North Surrey: 10025 King George Blvd., daily starting Dec. 7, 10:45 a.m. to 5:10 p.m. (closed 1 to 2 p.m.)
- Port Moody: Tri-Cities public health unit, 200-205 Newport Dr., Dec. 9, 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Dec. 10, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- South Delta: South Delta public health unit, 1826-4949 Canoe Pass Way, Tsawwassen; Dec. 9, 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Dec. 10, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- South Surrey: 1797 152 St., daily starting Dec. 7, 10:45 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. (closed 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.)