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B.C. officials provide update on COVID-19, influenza vaccines

A woman receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at an immunization clinic at the Gurdwara Dukh Nivaran Sahib, in Surrey, B.C., on Friday, May 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck A woman receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at an immunization clinic at the Gurdwara Dukh Nivaran Sahib, in Surrey, B.C., on Friday, May 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
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B.C. health officials provided an update Friday on the number of people who have received vaccinations against influenza and COVID-19, stressing the need for people to get their shots before the peak of respiratory illness season.

In the month since the fall vaccination campaign launched, 1,072,000 people have received the flu shot and 847,458 have been immunized against the coronavirus.

"We're in good shape but there is more opportunity across the province to get vaccinated," Health Minister Adrian Dix said, urging anyone who has received an invitation to book an appointment as soon as possible.

Acknowledging that some communities have longer waits and less availability for appointments, Dix said more capacity is being added where necessary. His advice to those who have had trouble booking online is to try again, try booking over the phone, to try asking your local pharmacy about walk-ins or to travel to a location that may be a bit farther afield – if possible.

Dix said the province has enough vaccine supply to meet demand.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said getting updated vaccines is important to protect against the strains of COVID-19 and influenza that are currently circulating.

While what she described as an "early peak" of COVID-19 is subsiding, Henry noted that cases of other viruses – specifically RSV, influenza and the viruses that cause the common cold – are starting to increase and are expected to continue to rise.

"This is a time where it's important to get to get our protection as we're going into the worst part of the season," she said.

Over the past month, Dix said, hospitals have been caring for more patients than they were at this time last year – with an average of 337 more patients per day between Oct. 8 and Nov. 7.

"Last year, we had very high levels of hospitalization. This year, they are higher," the minister said.

"We're still going to see a rising level of demand for inpatient acute care in our hospitals. They are grateful and we are grateful for the determination of British Columbia to get vaccinated during this period. We have to continue to do that."

Henry said that vaccine uptake does tend to peak early in the season, when those who are more vulnerable and those who are more eager quickly snap up available appointments. While there hasn't yet been a drop off, Henry said she hopes the province's reminder system will encourage people who didn’t book an appointment when they were first notified to book one when prompted.

"This is a time to get the protection as we're starting to see the viruses get more and more active in the community," she said.

Both Dix and Henry also reminded British Columbians, particularly as the holiday gathering season gets underway, to take precautions to prevent infecting others, like staying home when sick. 

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