Influenza low in B.C., says health minister

Interior Health medical health officer Dr. Carole Fenton said data from South Africa and Australia shows that COVID-19 distancing protocols may have been effective in creating fewer flu cases during flu season in the Southern Hemisphere.

Although COVID-19 infections are on the rise in B.C., the level of influenza circulating appears to be low, Minister of Health Adrian Dix said during an update on Monday (Nov. 23).

Despite the increased amount of testing, indicators of influenza activity remain exceptionally low for this time of the year based on national and provincial surveillance, Dix said.

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“To date, there’s no evidence of influenza circulating in B.C. communities and no long-term care facility influenza outbreaks have been reported so far in 2020-21,” Dix said.

As of Nov. 23, there have been 2,027,000 doses of this year’s flu vaccine distributed by the BC Centre for Disease Control to health authorities in the province. As of that date, at least 1,069,542 doses of flu vaccine have been administered to people.

“This is an extraordinary achievement,” Dix said.

As of Nov. 23, pharmacists have distributed 808,001 doses, up from 518,025 last year. The number of flu vaccines administered at doctors’ offices is up by 100,000 over this time last year, Dix said.

Interior Health medical health officer Dr. Carole Fenton said data from South Africa and Australia shows that COVID-19 distancing protocols may have been effective in creating fewer flu cases during flu season in the Southern Hemisphere.

Fenton said the peak of flu season is typically the last week of December and first week of January, noting people should get vaccinated now, noting the flu vaccine is being emphasized this year to relieve the stress of influenza on the health-care system amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Interior Health has been given 300,000 doses of this year’s flu vaccine from the BCCDC. 

The health authority is not offering mass flu clinics this year to avoid crowds amidst the pandemic, but family doctors and pharmacies have ordered more vaccine doses than ever to close the gap.

According to the BC Centre for Disease Control, last year’s flu vaccine was 58 per cent effective for the 2018-2019 influenza season and 72 per cent effective in 2017-2018.

Vaccine effectiveness is the percent reduction in the frequency of influenza illness among vaccinated people compared to people not vaccinated.

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