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B.C. launching fall vaccination campaign for COVID, influenza on Oct. 10

B.C.'s public vaccination campaign for the fall respiratory illness season will begin Oct. 10, health officials announced Thursday.

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presented the plan – along with updated surveillance data on COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases and revised expectations for masking in medical facilities – at a news conference.

Henry said immunization of long-term-care residents has already begun, and invitations for members of the public to book vaccination appointments will begin going out next week, according to the officials.

"Our campaign will begin as soon as vaccine comes in, and we are starting with long-term care even this week," Henry said. "The public campaign will really launch in earnest – so most people will expect to start getting invitations to get your vaccinations – starting right after Thanksgiving weekend, around Oct. 10."

The provincial health officer encouraged people to ensure they are registered with the province's Get Vaccinated website, which is the online system through which invitations are sent and appointments are booked.

Appointments can also be booked by calling 1-833-838-2323.

Invitations will be sent to "priority populations" first. These groups include those most at risk of serious illness, specifically people with chronic health conditions, people ages 65 and older, people who are pregnant and Indigenous people, as well as health-care workers and the aforementioned long-term-care residents.

Infants and young children are also a priority population for influenza vaccination, specifically. Data presented at Thursday's news conference shows young children were disproportionately hospitalized during last year's early and relatively short flu season.

Appointments for COVID-19 vaccination will be available at more than 1,200 pharmacies across the province, with flu vaccine appointments available at more than 1,350.

Officials said the public is encouraged to get both a COVID and a flu shot at the same time.

Health Canada has approved both Moderna's Spikevax and Pfizer-BioNTech's Comirnaty vaccines targeting the XBB.1.5 strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

In addition to those two mRNA vaccines, the non-mRNA Novavax vaccine has been submitted to Health Canada for approval, which is still pending, Henry said.

Vaccines will be available to everyone six months old and older, with infants and children getting a lower dose.

It's best to get a COVID-19 vaccine at least six months after the previous dose or known COVID-19 infection, according to officials.

The provincial health officer repeated that recommendation, but also discussed the province's rationale for timing its vaccination campaigns the way it has.

"You get the best longer-term protection if you wait about six months," Henry said. "But we also know that this (vaccine) is tailored to what we're seeing circulate right now. It prevents infection. It prevents us from getting the virus causing infection in the first place … And what we're learning is that after each dose, that maximum protection against infection can last for two to three months. So we want you to get the vaccine, and that's the timing. We want you to have that best protection during the period of time where the risk is greatest."

She added that cell-mediated or "memory immunity" also gets a boost from a new dose of vaccine, and said that boost "lasts quite a bit longer." Top Stories

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