Flu vaccination rates dipped last year in B.C. after problems with the vaccine composition poorly matching the prevalent influenza virus.

Flu vaccination rates dipped last year in B.C. after problems with the vaccine composition poorly matching the prevalent influenza virus.

Deadlier flu season may be brewing for B.C.

Vaccine mismatch unlikely to impede protection this year, but most dangerous H3N2 strain expected to be dominant

B.C. may be in for one of the deadliest flu seasons in recent years and public health officials are hoping more at-risk residents get vaccinated.

But they’re facing an uphill battle – use of the influenza vaccine dipped to around 35 per cent of the B.C. population last flu season, after peaking a year earlier at nearly 40 per cent.

Dr. Danuta Skowronski, an epidemiologist with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, said she believes some people skipped the vaccine last year following disclosure that the 2014-15 vaccine gave virtually no protection against the flu strain that ended up circulating.

That mismatch problem doesn’t appear to have resurfaced this year, however.

Skowronski said signs so far indicate the more dangerous H3N2 influenza strain will dominate this flu season and “pack quite a wallop” following a relatively mild H1N1-dominant flu season last winter.

“H3N2 viruses are associated with the greatest disease burden – more intense, severe epidemics, more hospitalizations and deaths,” Skowronski said. “A number of us are concerned that it’s H3N2 we’re likely facing this year. We are already picking up care facility outbreaks due to H3N2 viruses. That is very early.”

The new vaccine formulation includes an H3N2 component that so far appears to be a good match to the strain in circulation so far.

“That can change. That can flip flop. But at least going into the season, that’s looking promising.”

She added that how well the vaccine fits the virus is only one of the factors that drives the effectiveness of flu vaccines.

The H3N2 vaccine effectiveness has traditionally hovered around 50 per cent, she added, so even if it’s well matched against what’s circulated, protection is not assured.

“It doesn’t mean that you are invincible if you get the vaccine, but I’m certainly expecting more decent protection than had I been picking up signals in the circulating virus that it was drifting away from the vaccine component.”

Skowronski said she hopes high-risk people in particular – the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions – aren’t dissuaded from taking the vaccine this time.

“The vaccine can be a life saver and it would really be a tragedy if they chose not to get the vaccine because one year happened to be a miss on the match.”

National statistics show the worst flu season of the last five years – 2014-15 – resulted in nearly 600 deaths across Canada and more than 7,700 hospitalizations from confirmed cases.

But Skowronski cautioned that any statistics of that sort grossly undercount actual deaths because most victims are never tested to confirm a flu virus.

For more information on who is eligible for free flu shots and where to get them see immunizebc.ca and the site’s flu clinic locator.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A proposed multi-family, multi-building development in east White Rock was the subject of a public hearing Monday evening. (City of White Rock image)
Pros and cons of White Rock housing development debated at virtual public hearing

Affordable housing need, traffic concerns among reasons cited for and against Beachway project

Photo: Surrey RCMP
Surrey RCMP arrests two boys, age 16, during dial-a-dope investigation in Whalley

Sergeant Elenore Sturko said one boy is ‘alleged to have been in possession of a loaded handgun at the time of his arrest’

The new Phoenix Flame BBQ truck serves as a “Mobile Community Kitchen” in the Surrey area. (Photo: phoenixsociety.com)
New ‘Phoenix Flame BBQ’ truck now mobile with food for Surrey’s ‘hard-to-reach populations’

Also launched: Another Surrey Honda Raffle to help the Surrey-based agency and others

Teachers at Maple Green Elementary in Surrey stage a walk-in before school on Wednesday (March 3, 2021), as Fraser Health continues to announce variant exposure cases at Surrey schools throughout the district. (Submitted photo: Julia MacRae)
Surrey Teachers’ Association calls for district-specific COVID-19 safety measures

STA holds third and fourth walk-ins after multiple COVID-19 variant exposures

A memorial of flowers, notes and photos grew quickly on the median adjacent to where Paul Prestbakmo died on Aug. 16. (Tracy Holmes photo)
Witness in South Surrey murder trial says he saw Paul Prestbakmo get stabbed

Defence questions difference between witness’ statements to police, testimony

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

Emergency crews are on scene at Walnut Grove Secondary School after a report of a bomb threat at Walnut Grove Secondary School on March 3, 2021. The school was safely evacuated. (Shane MacKichan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
UPDATE: Bomb threat forces evacuation of Langley high school

Police asked the public to avoid 88th Avenue and Walnut Grove Drive

A vial of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a family doctor office, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 in Paris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Christophe Ena
Trudeau ‘optimistic’ that timeline for rollout of COVID vaccines can be accelerated

Canada set to receive more than 6M COVID-19 vaccine dose than initially expected, by end of March

Most Read