Northern B.C.’s top doctor is urging residents to take advantage of free flu shots as we enter that time of year when the number of people affected by the respiratory illness tends to increase.
Northern Health’s chief medical officer, Dr. Jong Kim, singled out children under the age of five, adults over 65, pregnant women, and people with asthma and heart conditions as being particularly vulnerable to the illness.
“It is important for people to be aware for themselves, their families, the community and the health care system.”
Kim’s comments follow flu shot statistics showing the north is behind the rest of the province in every age category as of Nov. 27. Just under 17 per cent of all northern residents have had a flu shot against of 25.46 per cent of the province’s entire population as of that date.
Within the northern figure, only 6.63 per cent of children from six to four years have had a flu shot compared to the provincial total of 15.15 per cent for that age group.
For northern children from five years to 17 years, the figure is 6.58 per cent, less than half the 15.2 per cent rate for that age group in all of B.C.
The statistic for seniors over the age of 65 is a little better with 43.46 per cent of northern residents in that age group having had a flu shot compared to 51.38 per cent within the province.
Just over 8.5 per cent of northerners between the ages of 18 and 49 have had a flu shot compared to 15.6 per cent across the province in that age category.
For northerners from age 50 to 64, the flu shot rate is 20.51 per cent compared to the provincial rate 28.47 per cent in that age category.
Kim said northern hospitals and clinics have yet to see a surge of people showing up with flu symptoms but that reported cases through the BC Center for Disease Control are beginning to creep up, including the problematic respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
“We’re working with our partners, pharmacies and others to communicate the need for immunizations,” Kim said in response to the region’s low numbers.
One of the complications this fall is that children have not had a chance to build up immunity because they were so isolated during the public-health measures preventing or limiting gatherings during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Flu shots are free for everyone six months and older. There’s an option for children two and order to have a nasal spray vaccine instead of a shot. Children under the age of nine who have never had a flu shot need two.
Health authorities stress the importance of keeping children home if they’re sick, encouraging the wearing of masks if they experience mild symptoms, reminding them to wash their hands often and teaching them to cover their mouths and noses when coughing.