Low vaccination rates see pharmacists urging the public to roll up sleeves ahead of holiday season


Pharmacists in B.C. are urging people to get vaccinated as we enter the holiday season, and they’re not just talking about protection against COVID-19 and influenza.

“Other things we want to consider are the pneumonia vaccine and also the RSV, which is a new vaccine,” says pharmacist Dr. Fairuz Siraj.

“On top of that, there are some vaccines we typically forget as well.”

Siraj lists shingles and tetanus as vaccines that fly under the radar, and a new study gives B.C. a failing grade when it comes to vaccination numbers. The website CanAge.ca gives B.C. an ‘F’ letter grade, citing pneumonia vaccination rates in seniors that sit at 53 per cent, well below the 80 per cent national target.

When asked about those numbers, Premier David Eby urges people not to put extra strain on B.C.’s healthcare system.

“We do not need people in our emergency rooms who would have been prevented from being there if they’d just gotten a COVID or flu vaccine,” he said from a media briefing at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.

Island Health announced Monday that clinics will be offering walk-in appointments to children aged six months to 11 years old and their families to streamline the process of getting immunized.

Dr. Charuka Maheswaran is a physician in Courtenay and says while people in her area are stepping up to be vaccinated, it’s especially important in young kids.

“Last year, we saw an increase in hospitalizations from influenza in kids, and we don’t want that again this year.”

She adds that in order to be protected for the holiday season, the time to do it is now. “It takes about two weeks in your body to reach maximum efficiency,” says Maheswaran.

Island Health says everyone six months and older can receive an influenza vaccine this season and a COVID-19 vaccine if their last dose was at least six months ago.

Jordan Cunningham

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