Pharmacies across B.C. are now offering flu shots but public health clinics won’t start administering them until early November because of “minor delays and shortfalls.”
Waiting until early November shouldn’t cause problems if last year’s experience is any indication. At this time last year, there was a very low level of influenza being detected across the province. Indeed, cases were markedly lower than the same periods in 2014 to 2017, according to data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. That began to change in early December. Cases of the flu typically peak in early January for children and adults.
Heather Amos, a spokesperson for the Centre for Disease Control and the Provincial Health Services Authority, said there’s nothing unusual about the fact that big flu vaccine shipments aren’t here yet.
“The timing of the delivery of the flu vaccine, and the quantity of vaccine available can, and does, vary from year to year due to a variety of factors related to the manufacturing, testing, and regulatory processes.”
The World Health Organization is the body that recommends which strains of influenza should be targeted in vaccines each year and this year, the recommendations were delayed, which affected manufacturing. That has led to a nationwide delay in the distribution of vaccines. Typically, flu patterns in the southern hemisphere predict the subsequent composition in vaccines and the severity of flu in the northern hemisphere.
Children are given a quadrivalent vaccine that protects against four types, and there is shortage of the quadrivalent vaccine. Public health officials will have sufficient supplies of the trivalent vaccine, which protects against three types, to compensate and those vaccines “should offer a similar level of protection for the types of flu expected to circulate this year, so this shortfall is not expected to be clinically significant.”
“Despite some minor delays and shortfalls, which are normal and expected, we anticipate this year will be similar to most years in terms of our total quantities of vaccine and the timing of distribution.”
Ninety per cent of the vaccine supply is expected to be shipped to B.C. by the middle of November. Priority will be given to long-term care facilities, hospitals, physicians and pharmacies. And then public health clinics.
An emerging trend is individuals getting their flu shots from pharmacists; the majority of pharmacies now offer vaccinations.
A poll conducted by London Drugs of 624 adults reflects that pattern. The survey, conducted by Insights West on behalf of London Drugs, showed that among those who plan to get a flu shot this year, half will go to a pharmacy. That’s an increase of eight percentage points over last year. By comparison, only six per cent said they would go to a public health flu clinic, down from 10 per cent last year. Another 15 per cent said they’d go to their doctor’s office and 16 per cent said they will get it at their workplace.
Many companies have notified employees that previously scheduled flu clinics have been postponed because of manufacturing and shipping delays.
London Drugs has 82 stores across B.C. Publicly funded vaccines for those eligible are available at all locations now. The remainder of the supply for those who don’t qualify as high risk individuals and therefore must pay about $20 is expected later this week, according to a spokesperson.