Lifestyles

Influenza vaccine supply running low for Rosslanders

  - Black Press file photo
— image credit: Black Press file photo

Health-care workers across the province have vaccinated a record number of Rosslanders and people across B.C. against this year's flu, as nearly 1.4 million British Columbians have rolled up their sleeves to protect themselves.

Despite ordering 1.401 million doses of influenza vaccine, the unprecedented demand for the vaccine means that there is the likelihood that B.C. will experience temporary gaps in influenza supply and availability.

There have been nine laboratory-confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus in the Kootenay region, according to Interior Health.

Supplies of influenza vaccine are still available to B.C. residents, despite high demand as the H1N1 strain of the virus has returned, provincial health officials say.

Cases since the current flu season began in December have shown a shift towards people aged 20 to 69, rather than the very young and the elderly who are typically most vulnerable.

There have been severe cases involving healthy, younger people and two deaths have been confirmed, one in the Okanagan and one on Vancouver Island.

The main strain of influenza to emerge this winter is a descendent of the H1N1 that prompted the largest vaccination in Canadian history in 2009-10, when the illness was declared a global pandemic.

Provinces and territories across the country are experiencing similar challenges with vaccine supply, and B.C. is continuing to work with the federal government to obtain additional supply of the vaccine.

As a result of these efforts, B.C. is expecting about 5,000 more doses to arrive during the week of Jan. 21 and another 3,000 doses during the week of Jan. 28, and the province has requested another 13,000 doses. These vaccines will be available to eligible persons in all regions of the province, based on demand.

In the meantime, Rosslanders and British Columbians who have not been vaccinated this season are encouraged to take the usual preventive measures, such as regular hand washing, staying home when sick and avoiding contact with those who are at high risk to develop complications from influenza.

This year's influenza season is not more severe than past seasons, and the vast majority of those impacted by influenza make a complete recovery after seven to 10 days of illness. The relatively rare, more serious complications of this year's strain have affected a younger-than-usual segment of the population.

In addition, B.C.'s PharmaCare program has expanded the coverage criteria for antivirals for the 2013-2014 influenza season to include anyone with lab-confirmed influenza A or B, or with influenza symptoms. Physicians can now write prescriptions for people experiencing these symptoms. Antivirals can help reduce the symptoms of flu and help people recover more quickly.

 

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