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B.C. government buying nearly 2 million flu vaccine doses to prepare for fall, but vaccine won’t be mandatory

Global News logo Global News 2020-09-09 Richard Zussman
John Horgan et al. looking at a laptop: Premier John Horgan is joined by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix as they discuss reopening the province's economy in phases in response to the COVID-19 pandemic during a press conference in the rotunda at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Wednesday May 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito © THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito Premier John Horgan is joined by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix as they discuss reopening the province's economy in phases in response to the COVID-19 pandemic during a press conference in the rotunda at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Wednesday May 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

The British Columbia government is continuing to fight COVID-19 by first attacking the flu.

The province announced on Wednesday an enhanced fall flu immunization campaign through the purchase of 1,965,000 doses of the flu vaccine.

This is an additional 450,000 doses on top of what was already planned.

B.C. health officials are worried the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with a fall flu season, will lead to an overwhelming strain the health care system.

 

“We learned when we were watching what was happening in the southern hemisphere, in New Zealand and Australia, that there was a high demand for the vaccine. And they have had a mild season because of a high use of the vaccine.” B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

“We know it works well and is a way to keep people healthy and helps reduce those having symptoms that could be confused with COVID.”

But the province will not be requiring the vaccine. Henry says the province does not have any mandatory vaccines.

A Fluzone-high dose flu vaccine will be available specifically to all long term care and assisted living facilities in the province. The government is committing to hiring up to 5,000 new staff across the LTC system.

The goal will be to get everyone at high risk of the flu vaccinated.

Public health is still looking at how to distribute the vaccine. The goal will be to focus on public health clinics, doctor’s offices, and potentially workplaces as places where the vaccine can be accessed.

Distributing the vaccine at schools will be challenging this year because parents will not be able to be there with their children.

“What we decided to do is dramatically increase the flu vaccines we receive. This has been supported by the federal government. We believe there will be significantly higher demand,” B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said.

“We have put ourselves in position to do more immunizations and that will have very positive effects on acute care and our health care system.”

Anyone over the age of six months is eligible for the vaccine.

The province has allocated about $784 million to implement the plan with a focus on increased health capacity.

The plan includes building out COVID-19 testing capacity for fall/winter to approximately 20,000 tests per day to help determine whether someone has COVID or the flu.

The goal of public health is to maintain normal routine access to the province’s health care system while managing the ongoing pandemic.

The province will be putting in place surge capacity across key hospitals in the province and a staged approach to regionally managing surges in demand.

This will include assigning COVID-19 beds to 18 COVID-19 sites.

“For the fall/winter we want to maintain normal routine access to health care as much as possible while also responding effectively to managing COVID-19,” a presentation from health officials reads.

“The B.C. health system has [the] adequate physical capacity to meet demand with the backstop of knowing that we can successfully implement more extreme measures linked to delayed surgeries or admissions if required.”

The hiring of 500 new contact tracers was previously announced by B.C. Premier John Horgan, Dix and Henry.

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