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

Sidney blocks off parking spaces to create more sidewalk

Additional measures to create more outdoor space for restaurants and cafe on way

Province buys Paul’s Motor Inn to house Victoria’s homeless population

Inn is the second hotel the province has purchased to support vulnerable community

Sidney/North Saanich RCMP seize vehicle stolen from New Westminster

Man arrested on Resthaven Drive charged with possession of property obtained by crime

Telus headquarters to come to Victoria in ‘landmark building’ development

City sells land on coroner of Douglas and Humboldt streets for $8.1 million

B.C. records four new COVID-19 cases, Abbotsford hospital outbreak cleared

Four senior home outbreaks also declared over, eight still active

Friendly Cove and Kyuquot will remain closed until further notice

Transition of other B.C. communities will be monitored before a decision to ease restrictions

Gold River organizes a shop local initiative to creatively boost economy

Local purchases can earn shoppers $200 gift certificates to be spent on businesses within Gold River

Young killer whale untangles itself from trap line off Nanaimo shore

DFO marine mammal rescue unit arrived as whale broke free from prawn trap line

About 30% of B.C. students return to schools as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

B.C.’s Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics goes virtual

The annual event partnering RCMP with Special Olympians is dramatically altered by COVID-19

Most Read