B.C. pharmacists urging adults to get vaccinated as peak flu season approaches

B.C. pharmacists say adults in the province are behind on immunizations and should get them soon as we head into peak respiratory virus season.

Christine Antler, region director of pharmacy at Pharmasave, tells CityNews getting vaccinated is not just about protecting yourself but also those in your community. 

She says getting vaccinated can also help ease the burden on the province’s already stretched health-care system.

“It’s really important not just to protect yourself … but also to protect your loved ones as you won’t run the risk of spreading that respiratory infection to other people who may be more vulnerable,” she said.

Antler adds it takes two weeks for vaccines to become fully effective. With holiday gatherings quickly approaching, she says it’s recommended adults get their shots sooner than later, as the risk of transmission increases.

“With the flu season and COVID vaccinations, we generally see a really strong uptake in mid-October to mid-November, we see a lot of people who are really eager and get them every year. And then around this time things start to taper off a little bit,” Antler said.

She explains, although it’s still too early in the season to compare this year to the last, respiratory illness numbers typically increase as we head into the winter.

The latest provincial data also shows cases of influenza, COVID-19 and RSV numbers are on the rise. For the week of Nov. 19 to 25, eight per cent of emergency department visits were for respiratory symptoms. A FluWatch report released Friday also showed influenza activity has crossed the seasonal threshold at the national level.

Meanwhile, Pharmasave says vaccine uptake for preventable diseases like seasonal influenza and pneumonia has dropped “below national immunization targets for years.”

The company says just over half, 53.1 per cent, of B.C. adults 65 and older are vaccinated against pneumonia — which can have life-threatening and long-standing health impacts — but this is well below the coverage goal of 80 per cent.

The company has launched a provincewide immunization drive to try and increase vaccine uptake, given the vaccine fatigue it says it is seeing.

Antler suggests anyone who is hesitant about getting vaccinated should talk to their pharmacist or health-care provider about their needs and concerns. She adds it’s not too late for your vaccine despite some appointment issues back in the fall.

“We are here to say, if you haven’t yet gotten vaccinated, there is still time and vaccines available to get both your flu and COVID shots and talk with your pharmacist about other vaccines you might be eligible for,” she said.

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