An increase in serious illness in younger people from this winter's return of H1N1 influenza prompted many more people to get protection.

1.4 million flu shots a B.C. record

The return of H1N1 and some severe cases involving younger people prompted a big increase in seasonal influenza vaccinations

It wasn’t as many as in the global H1N1 pandemic of 2009, but this year’s influenza vaccine program delivered a record 1.4 million seasonal doses to B.C. residents.

Resurgence of the H1N1 strain that triggered hospitalizations and deaths among younger patients motivated a late-season surge in demand for flu shots after Christmas, resulting in temporary shortages of vaccine in some areas.

Changes in policy also contributed to better protection agains seasonal flu, said Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall. Health care workers and visitors were required to get the vaccine or wear masks in patient care areas, to protect patients with underlying conditions that make influenza more serious.

After the health care worker immunization rate had drifted as low as 50 per cent, the new policy prompted 80 per cent of health care employees to be vaccinated and the remainder used masks, Kendall said Wednesday. One health care aide in Grand Forks was fired after repeatedly refusing to wear a mask when working around patients.

Health care unions argued against the policy but it was upheld in arbitration.

Health Minister Terry Lake said the total was increased by extending free flu shots to anyone who was considering visiting a relative in a health care facility during the winter. Previously seniors, children aged six months to five years, seniors over 65, residents of care and assisted living facilities, those with chronic conditions and health care and emergency workers were eligible for a free vaccine.

Lake said the ministry is considering offering the vaccine free to everyone in future years.

Kendall said the impact of H1N1 on younger people has been analyzed.

“The group over the age of 65 had the highest levels of residual immunity, perhaps from previous infection or previous vaccination, and the group who had the least immunity was 25- to 60-year-olds,” Kendall said. “So that was why we saw the shift of hospitalizations in a younger than expected age group.”

The World Health Organization tracks influenza strains around the world and estimates the strains for the coming year. The vaccine being produced for next winter includes H1N1 and common seasonal flus H3N2 and influenza B.

Kendall said research is proceeding for a universal vaccine, to eliminate the guesswork in crafting the annual strain. That could be available in five years.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Penticton Vees on four-game streak after 2-1 win against Salmon Arm Silverbacks

The Vees head to West Kelowna Tuesday, before coming home Friday to battle the Merritt Centennials.

Update: Individual successfully rescued from hills above Penticton

An individual became stranded earlier this morning.

First VegFest of the South Okanagan coming to Penticton

The festival is scheduled for Aug. 23, with speakers and entertainment all day.

Penticton Vees score a 9-1 win against Merritt Centennials

The win is their third in a row in their latest streak.

‘Lift for Wills’ community fundraiser to support Penticton boy fighting cancer

This Sunday, stop by World Gym Penticton for by-donation drop-in classes, a silent auction, more.

B.C. VIEWS: Few clouds on Horgan’s horizon

Horgan’s biggest challenge in the remainder of his term will be to keep the economy humming along

Kelowna’s Tess Critchlow gears up for World Cup at Big White

Critchlow is a professional snowboarder competing for Team Canada in the boardercross competition

Victoria family focuses on ‘letting go, enjoying time together’ after dad gets dementia

Walter Strauss has developed an interest in music and now takes line dancing classes

B.C. forest industry grasps for hope amid seven-month strike, shutdowns, changes

Some experts say this could be worse for forestry than the 2008 financial crisis

Northern B.C. RCMP investigating alleged sexual assault in downtown Smithers

One person was transported by ambulance to hospital following RCMP investigation at Sedaz

UBC, Iranian-Canadian community create memorial scholarship in honour of victims

The Jan. 8 crash killed 176 people, including 57 Canadians

Disrespectful that Horgan won’t meet during northern B.C. tour: hereditary chief

Na’moks said he was frustrated Horgan didn’t meet with the chiefs

Update: Highway reopens after crash west of Revelstoke

Drive BC also reported a vehicle incident 10 km east of Golden.

Most Read