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.

 

Just Posted

San Group announces plans to build new sawmill in Port Alberni

San Group has purchased 25 acres of Catalyst Paper land on Stamp Avenue for its expansion

Two Port Alberni cannabis dispensaries raided on legalization day

Leaf Compassion and Cannabis Club ticketed for “unlawful sale” of cannabis

ELECTION 2018: Homeless residents can vote too

Port Alberni Shelter Society offers use of address, more help for homeless to vote

Learn about ocean science aboard a Canadian Coast Guard ship

Ship will be docked in Port Alberni on Oct. 18 and 19

Alberni teen earns black belt in taekwondo

Lachlan Duncan of Port Alberni earned his black belt at Dragon Martial Arts

B.C. NDP retreats again on empty-home tax for urban areas

Rate reduced for all Canadians, dissident mayors to get annual meeting

Jets score 3 late goals to beat Canucks 4-1

Winnipeg ends three-game Vancouver win streak

Shots fired at Vancouver Island house during fight

Shots were fired at about 2:30 p.m. Thursday in 500 block of Kennedy Street, say Nanaimo RCMP

Two B.C. cannabis dispensaries raided on legalization day

Port Alberni dispensaries ticketed for “unlawful sale” of cannabis

Canada not sending anyone to Saudi business summit

Sources insist Ottawa never intended to dispatch a delegation this time around

Earthquake early-warning sensors installed off coast of B.C.

The first-of-its kind warning sensors are developed by Ocean Networks Canada

VPD ordered to co-operate with B.C. police watchdog probe

According to the IIO, a court is ordering Vancouver police to co-operate with an investigation into a fatal shooting

B.C. woman looks to reduce stigma surrounding weed-smoking moms

Shannon Chiarenza, a Vancouver mom of two, started weedmama.ca to act as a guide for newcomers to legal cannabis, specifically mothers

Nanaimo RCMP warn public after nine-year-old girl approached by motorist

Incident happened Wednesday morning near Park Avenue School

Most Read