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Flu shots free for all eligible British Columbians this year in effort to reduce strain on health-care system

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With B.C. still dealing with its fourth wave in the COVID-19 pandemic, the province is covering the cost of getting a flu shot for all eligible residents this year in the hope it'll reduce strain on an already burdened health-care system.

In a news release Tuesday, B.C.'s health ministry announced flu vaccinations will be free for everyone in the province aged six months and older. Children younger than that aren't eligible to get the shot.

"All British Columbians should get vaccinated against influenza to protect themselves and their loved ones from serious illness, to reduce the strain on our hard-working health workers and to do our part to make sure the health system continues to be there for people who need it, where they need it and when they need it," said Minister of Health Adrian Dix in the news release.

Officials have already warned this year could see a particularly severe flu season. In an interview with CTV Morning Live Tuesday, University of British Columbia's Dr. Michael Curry said it's expected to be worse than last year.

"Our regular cold viruses are back and while I haven't seen influenza yet, it usually appears around November or so and I suspect like the other cold viruses making a resurgence, I suspect influenza will as well this year," Curry said.

Typically, there is a small cost to get a flu shot, though there are a wide range of exemptions that waive the fee.

"This year, it’s especially important for people to get vaccinated against influenza. Last year’s low influenza rates means our immunity against influenza is lower than usual," said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer.

"Getting your influenza vaccine this year is more important than ever to protect yourself, your community and our overstretched health-care system."

Flu shots are already being offered to some high-risk groups and availability throughout the province is expected to increase in coming weeks. 

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