B.C. gets an ‘F’ for falling short on adult vaccination targets

'F' for adult vaccination

The holiday season also happens to be peak respiratory virus season and B.C. pharmacists are raising the alarm over the number of adults who are behind on their immunizations.

Influenza and pneumonia combined are one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the province, yet only 53 per cent of British Columbia adults over the age of 65 are vaccinated against pneumonia, while vaccine uptake for this fall’s COVID-19 campaign was just 21.1 per cent as of November 25.

Provincial data shows cases of COVID-19, the flu and RSV are on the rise. As of the week ending November 25, there were 221 confirmed cases of influenza, 404 of COVID-19 and 179 cases of RSV. During the same week, respiratory symptoms accounted for eight per cent of emergency room visits.

“We’re interested in making people aware that it’s not too late to get a flu shot, if you haven’t already done so. Especially with the holiday season coming up and people congregating, getting together with big groups of people, whether it’s office parties or just with family," said pharmacist Craig Tostenson, from the Pharmasave at Glenmore Road and Kane Road.

Pharmasave Launched a province-wide adult immunization drive this week. You can make an appointment at any Pharmasave location for a consultation where the pharmacist will review your vaccination history, address questions and provide facts and resources. Patients can also get their influenza, pneumonia, COVID, shingles, RSV and other recommended vaccinations during the appointment.

“British Columbians should not rely on their childhood vaccinations alone, but instead continue to vaccinate throughout their lives. Some are recommended annually, like influenza. Others are recommended only after a certain age, like pneumonia, while others require boosters periodically, like tetanus and diphtheria,” says Christine Antler, Region Director, Pharmacy for Pharmasave.

A recent report by CanAge, giving British Columbia an ‘F’ rating in its annual Vaccine Report Card, down from a 'D’ grade in 2021/22. The report highlighted that immunization efforts in the province fell short last season and the room for improvement this season.

While flu and COVID-19 shots are free, there is a fee for some of the other vaccinations.

“They all range in price. For instance an RSV vaccine is $270, depending on exactly where you go. It might vary by $10 or so. Shingles shots are even more. They need two shots. Each shot is about $175.

“So yeah, it can be expensive but most people when you discuss the risks, they’re quite happy to at least save up for those if they don’t have the funds available right away,” notes Tostenson.

He says his store also allows walk-in vaccinations.

When it comes to children, there are limitations on who pharmacies can vaccinate and at what age. For flu shots, pharmacies can take children who are four and over, but for COVID-19 shots, they can only people 12 and over. Parents of children under these ages need to book appointments through Interior Health.

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