B.C. announces new COVID booster schedule, updated mask requirements

B.C. announces new COVID booster schedule, updated mask requirements

The B.C. government has announced its plans to deliver the new COVID booster, and updated its mask requirements for health care facilities and long-term care homes.

The new COVID booster is set to start arriving in B.C. in early October, and will first be offered to people at risk of severe illness and complications, such as seniors 65 and older, residents in long-term care facilities, Indigenous peoples, pregnant people and those with chronic health conditions (e.g., cancer, HIV, hepatitis C, diabetes), as well as health-care workers.

On Oct. 10, invitations for the rest of the public will start to be rolled out.

There is an option to receive a COVID booster and flu shot at the same time.

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The B.C. government is encouraging everyone to get the updated vaccine and flu shot.

“An increase in hospital visits with the fall respiratory illness season requires measures to ensure our acute care is effective and our health-care system is strong, and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health.

“We all know that getting immunized is the best way for us to protect ourselves, our loved ones and the B.C. health-care workers we rely on. We all know that to keep ourselves healthy and our health-care system strong, we all need to do our part. And by getting our free and readily available COVID-19 and influenza vaccines at the same time, we’re all doing precisely what’s needed.”

Health care in B.C. has been long facing worker shortages, requiring some emergency departments to close due to a lack of staff.

The Saanich Peninsula Hospital has had overnight closures for its emergency departments since July 6, with no end in sight.

Interior Health is facing similar issues with closures at the Nicola Valley Hospital and Slocan Community Health Centre emergency departments.

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Vaccines will be available in participating pharmacies, health-authority clinics and some primary care providers’ offices. Both vaccines are free to everyone six months and older.

“We are starting to see increasing respiratory virus infections in B.C., including COVID-19, and now is the time to remember the healthy habits we can all do to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer.

“That includes covering your cough, cleaning your hands regularly, staying away from others if you have a cough or a fever, wearing masks if you have lingering symptoms or need extra protection and getting the updated COVID-19 and influenza vaccines. By getting immunized for both COVID-19 and influenza, we are not only protecting ourselves, but also those around us.”

Mask requirements

In health care facilities, all health care workers, volunteers, contractors and visitors in patient areas will be required to wear a mask starting Oct. 3.

Additionally, visitors to long-term care homes will be required to mask in common areas of the home and when participating in indoor events, gatherings, and activities in the common areas. Entrances to long-term care homes will have ambassadors to screen for symptoms of respiratory illnesses, handing out medical masks and ensuring people clean their hands.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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