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B.C. health officials encourage vaccination for children

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 2:09 PST, Mon December 5, 2022

Public-health officials are encouraging families and caregivers to get their kids vaccinated against influenza in advance of the holidays.

There are several respiratory viruses causing illness in B.C. Some children have had more severe illness in the past few weeks, particularly from influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Many children have not been exposed to influenza and other respiratory illnesses following two years of low influenza rates due to COVID-19 public-health prevention measures implemented worldwide, including Canada and B.C. Health officials say this is why it's especially important for children to get vaccinated against influenza now.

Children, especially those under the age of five, anyone with underlying medical conditions such as asthma or heart disease, pregnant people, and people over the age of 65 are most vulnerable to severe illness or complications from influenza, such as pneumonia and respiratory failure.

"As we head into the holiday season, I strongly encourage families and caregivers to get their children vaccinated against influenza, especially if they're planning to spend time with elderly loved ones," said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. "I know families are busy, especially at this time of year, but it is important to make this part of your plans. To help, we are making it even easier to get your child immunized in the coming days. This helps ensure everyone can stay healthy and enjoy the festivities."

The best way to protect children from influenza is to get them vaccinated. This has the added advantage of also protecting other vulnerable family members and friends, as well as easing the pressure on the health-care system.

In B.C., influenza immunizations are free for everyone six months and older. Children two and older have the option to get a flu shot or a nasal spray vaccine. Those under age nine who have never had a flu vaccine need two doses.

"Since it began in October, we have had a very enthusiastic response to the influenza campaign," said Dr. Penny Ballem, executive lead for B.C.'s vaccine operations program. "At health authority clinics, community pharmacies, and health-care provider offices, we've vaccinated over 1.5 million people, but the uptake has been low for children. We would like to invite all parents and caregivers of children who have not received the influenza vaccine to register their kids in the Get Vaccinated system and book an appointment. Our health authority clinics are flexible for those who wish to drop in, and many family physicians have influenza vaccine to vaccinate children in their offices."

Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, said: "I am encouraged to see that this year is a record year of influenza vaccination in B.C. among older people thus far. This is particularly important as people plan indoor celebrations for the holiday season with friends and family of all ages, some of whom are at risk of serious effects from flu. However, we need to see a higher vaccination rate among young people. Therefore, I ask everyone to do their part and get themselves and their kids vaccinated to help protect them and their loved ones, as well as our health-care system. I also want to thank our health-care professionals, primary care providers, and public-health immunization teams for their continued dedication in caring for British Columbians during this respiratory season."

To ensure an extra push to have more children vaccinated before the holidays, the influenza vaccine program throughout B.C. will be doing a blitz of clinics with lots of walk-in capacity on Friday and Saturday (Dec. 9 and 10).

B.C. has a more than ample supply of influenza vaccine available for children and many appointments available throughout the province. Children who also need a COVID-19 immunization can likely get it at the same time.

There are five ways to book an influenza immunization for your child:

1. Book an appointment at a health authority clinic or pharmacy through the provincial Get Vaccinated system: getvaccinated.gov.bc.ca/s/.

2. Book an appointment by phoning the provincial call centre (toll-free): 1-833-838-2323.

3. Book an appointment with your primary health-care provider if they are providing flu shots.

4. Visit a pharmacy or health authority clinic offering walk-in appointments. Pharmacies can provide an influenza shot for children aged five and older.

5. If you have already received an invitation for influenza immunization for your child via email and/or text message, use it to book an appointment and get vaccinated.

Vaccination is safe. Any side effects are typically very mild and go away on their own within a few days.

In addition to getting vaccinated, it's important to keep children home if they're sick, encourage them to wear masks if they're experiencing mild symptoms, remind them to frequently wash their hands, and teach them proper respiratory etiquette such as covering their coughs and properly disposing of tissues.

To learn more about the influenza vaccines, visit gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/managing-your-health/immunizations/flu and immunizebc.ca/influenza.

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