About 847,000 people have received their COVID-19 boosters while just under 1.1 million people have received their flu shots one month into B.C.’s vaccine campaign
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry released these numbers Friday (Nov. 10) during an update on B.C.’s respiratory illness season and immunization campaign. Health Minister Adrian Dix joined Henry in delivering the update with figures showing that two-thirds of people received the two vaccines at the same time. She added that most British Columbians should have received a vaccine invitation.
The province launched its COVID-19 and influenza immunization campaign in early October a few days after Henry had reintroduced mask mandates in provincial hospitals, clinics and long-term care homes on Oct. 3.
Henry said COVID-19 cases are levelling off and trending downward after an early peak. According to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, hospitals are treating 244 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Nov. 9, down from peak of 323 during the week of Oct. 1-7.
Eight people are currently in critical care and BCCDC says deaths have been “relatively stable” with 36 deaths reported for the week of Oct. 29 to Nov. 4.
But if the COVID-19 numbers are trending downward, Henry warned against complacency. “So yes, we saw a peak a couple of weeks ago and things seem to be settling down,” she said. “But that also corresponds with immunization, particularly people, who are most at risk…and we are just going to need to watch.”
Henry added it is not too late to get vaccinated. “This is not over,” she said. “It’s not behind us and it has still come back and surprised us in the past.”
Henry said health experts are still learning about COVID-19, adding that this season will help inform next year. “But right now, it is important that we do take (those measures) protecting ourselves and those around us and getting vaccinated is the way to do that.”
Unvaccinated people of any age remain at the greatest and highest risk of having more severe illness, ending up hospital and the potential for Long COVID.
She also warned of rising cases of influenza. “We are likely to see a peak in December, January, very similiar to what we saw prior to pandemic and (it is) still unknown what we are going to see with (COVID-19) over the next few months.”
November has also seen spike in people experiencing respiratory symptoms like coughs, sore throats and fevers, Henry said, in urging people to follow familiar hygiene protocols like frequent handwashing, wearing masks when coughing and staying at home when experiencing respiratory symptoms.
While Henry acknowledged some early glitches in the vaccination booking system and access to vaccines, appointments continue to be added.
“In general, the system has worked extremely well,” Dix said, noting that B.C. is leading Canada in terms of vaccinations.
“So generally speaking, you are going to be able to find an appointment on the site,” he said. “There are some communities that we are looking at (to add more appointments).”
They include Oliver, Osoyoos, Peachland, Courtenay and Lake Cowichan, Dix said. “So we are making those adjustments as we go along.”
Dix added B.C. has ample supplies of both COVID-19 and flu vaccines. “We have ordered 2.8 million COVID-19 vaccines (and) 2.3 million influenza vaccines for this respiratory season,” he said.
Dix also added that the provincial health care system has taken steps to ensure that people get the care they need. “In terms of beds, we have worked extensively with health authorities over the summer to review bed counts and the type of beds.”
The net base number of beds has risen to 9,939 from 9,880 in September and some 1,500 surge beds will be available for the height of the season, he said.
While the coming respiratory illness season, population growth and B.C.’s aging population will put additional pressure on the health care system, the provincial health care system has taken steps to respond to the coming rise in demand, he said.
“Our health-care system is resilient and is being responsive to this,” Dix said.