(File Photo)

Health authorities across BC, including Island Health, are encouraging families to get their children vaccinated prior to the holiday season.

Influenza numbers are up and there are a number of respiratory viruses going around in BC. Influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are the primary culprits.

For two years influenza numbers were low because of social distancing protocols and COVID-19 separating friends and family. Because of this, BC’s Ministry of Health says that it is especially important to get children vaccinated against influenza now. 

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Severe illness and complications from influenza viruses are especially high in children under the age of 5-years-old and in people with underlying medical conditions like asthma and heart disease, pregnant women and people over the age of 65-years old. 

“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 Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer. 

“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.”

Vancouver’s BC Children’s Hospital announced a ‘code orange’ over the weeknd because of the influx of influenza-related deaths and admittances. A code orange refers to “mass casualty or disaster” according to health authorities. 

The code orange was canceled approximately 30 minutes after it was activated and the Provincial Health Services Authority has provided no further detail on the code being activated. 

The province said that to avoid these deaths and hospitalizations, vaccination is the best strategy. 

BC offers free influenza vaccination and it is encouraged for those six months and older. Children older than 2-years-old can opt to get a nasal spray vaccine instead of a shot and children 9-years-old and over 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.”

BC health-care workers are doing a vaccination “blitz” with many clinics all over BC having lots of walk-in capacity.

The province says that there is an ample supply of vaccines in supply and those wishing to get a shot can also get a COVID-19 booster at the same time, depending on where they go. 

“I am encouraged to see that this year is a record year of influenza vaccination in B.C. among older people thus far,” Adrian Dix, Minister of Health.

“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.”

BC says that in addition to getting vaccinated, parents and guardians should keep their children home when they are sick and encourage them to wear masks if they have mild symptoms. 

Proper hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette can also prevent the spread of influenza. 

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