B.C.'s vaccine program against flu and COVID-19 begins today

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B.C. launches its immunization campaign today for respiratory virus season, with flu and COVID-19 shots gradually becoming available simultaneously at hundreds of pharmacies across the province.

The immunization plan was announced late last month when the provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry,  announced the reintroducion if mask mandates in health-care settings, as respiratory illnesses started trending upward.

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In a statement, Pharmasave said its drugstores are anticipating an increase in demand for vaccines this year as patients increasingly turn to pharmacists to treat common ailments. Pharmacists were authorized to offer expanded health services in June.

Though vaccinations begin Oct. 10, priority is being given to those over 65 and other vulnerable populations first. Those groups will get their invitations first. Health-care workers and those in long-term care have already begun receiving vaccines as shipments arrived in the province.

Anyone who has received a round of COVID-19 shots or boosters is already in the system and will get an invitation when vaccination is recommended.

Those who have yet to receive a vaccine should register at getvaccinated.gov.bc.ca or call 1-833-838-2323.

The latest vaccines are designed to protect against variants of the coronavirus that are most widely circulating in Canada. They include Moderna’s Spikevax vaccine and Pfizer-BioNTech’s Comirnaty vaccine. Both are mRNA vaccines and are designed to target the Omicron XBB.1.5 subvariant.

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Studies have shown the updated vaccines will also be effective against other Omicron subvariants ib circulation, including EG.5, XBB.1.16 and BA.2.86.

Health Canada is reviewing an application for an updated non-mRNA vaccine by Novovax.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control says COVID-19 hospitalizations have risen by 58 per cent for the two weeks starting Sept. 21, with 24 deaths in the last week of September.

The centre says new infections are also on the rise, from 133 cases during the second week of August to 877 cases in the last week of September — with a notable increase in patients age 60 and older.

— With files from Cheryl Chan and The Canadian Press

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Originally posted 2023-10-10 17:09:39.