B.C. Influenza vaccine supply running low: Provincial Health Officer

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HEALTH-CARE workers across the province have vaccinated a record number of British Columbians against this year’s flu, as nearly 1.4 million British Columbians have rolled up their sleeves to protect themselves. Despite ordering 1.401 million doses of influenza vaccine, the unprecedented demand for the vaccine means that there is the likelihood that B.C. will experience temporary gaps in influenza supply and availability, the Provincial Health Officer announced ion Thursday.

Provinces and territories across the country are experiencing similar challenges with vaccine supply, and B.C. is continuing to work with the federal government to obtain additional supply of the vaccine. As a result of these efforts, B.C. is expecting about 5,000 more doses to arrive during the week of Jan. 21 and another 3,000 doses during the week of January 28, and the Province has requested another 13,000 doses. These vaccines will be available to eligible persons in all regions of the province, based on demand.

In the meantime, British Columbians who have not been vaccinated this season are encouraged to take the usual preventive measures, such as regular hand washing, staying home when sick and avoiding contact with those who are at high risk to develop complications from influenza.

This year’s influenza season is not more severe than past seasons, and the vast majority of those impacted by influenza make a complete recovery after seven to 10 days of illness. The relatively rare, more serious complications of this year’s strain have affected a younger-than-usual segment of the population.

In addition, B.C.’s PharmaCare program has expanded the coverage criteria for antivirals for the 2013-2014 influenza season to include anyone with lab-confirmed influenza A or B, or with influenza symptoms. Physicians can now write prescriptions for people experiencing these symptoms. Antivirals can help reduce the symptoms of flu and help people recover more quickly.

Public health officials are recommending that anyone with an underlying health condition that can increase the risk of a serious complication, such as heart or lung disorders, kidney disease, chronic liver disease, diabetes, cancer or a weakened immune system, discuss receiving a prescription for an antiviral drug with their health-care provider. Should they develop influenza symptoms, they should contact their health-care provider for advice on whether they should fill the prescription.

For more information about influenza: http://www.immunizebc.ca