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Kids across Canada more at risk of hospitalization from flu this season: doctor – Preeceville Progress

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Canada’s chief public health officer says more children are being hospitalized this flu season because of an early spike in a strain of influenza B, which hits young people hard and is circulating across the country while a strain that typically targets the elderly also makes the rounds.

Dr. Theresa Tam said influenza B does not usually peak until February or later and the “double dose” of both influenza A and B strains has not been seen in Canada since 2015.

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“Right now we have influenza A-H3N2, which is still predominant, but influenza A, another strain, H1N1, is escalating and influenza B is early so all of this is going on at the same time, which is certainly having an impact on different communities and individuals.”

Seniors are typically sickened by H3N2, Tam said, adding she does not yet know which strains were believed to have been linked to the deaths of two young people in Manitoba.

Blaine Ruppenthal, 17, is suspected of having died of complications from the flu, according to a letter sent to parents Monday by the principal of Kelvin High School in Winnipeg.

A spokeswoman for the provincial government cited privacy laws in declining comment on whether Ruppenthal had any pre-existing medical conditions.

Tam said the death of a 24-year-old patient in Manitoba is also believed to have occurred from similar issues.

Lab tests will be done to determine if the two cases were linked to the virus, the provincial government said in a statement.

Two other people, both over 80, have died in Manitoba from flu-related illness this season, the statement says.

“The flu is impacting younger people more this season than in previous years. Almost 200 influenza B cases are reported to date and almost all were below the age of 50. The influenza A cases reported to date are very low for this time of a season with more than half below the age of 50.”

Manitoba is urging all residents to get the flu shot, which it offers for free.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said two deaths believed to be related to flu were also reported in New Brunswick this year.

The latest report from FluWatch, the agency’s surveillance program of influenza cases, says 258 children in Canada, aged 16 and under, were hospitalized over a three-week period ending Jan. 4.

“The weekly number of cases in this period is above the average over the previous five seasons,” it says.

Alison Merton, director of Collingwood Neighbourhood House, which operates over two dozen child-care programs in Vancouver for infants to school-aged kids, said more children have been sick with the flu than in the past few seasons.

The program can’t require parents to get any immunizations for their children but she said not having the flu vaccine can impact families.

“We have siblings in different programs so typically if one family goes down it does affect multiple programs,” Merton said.

Flumist, a nasal spray version of the flu vaccine, is often given to children but a global shortage means it has not been available in Canada, Tam said, adding the vaccine is an alternative for anyone over the age of six months and pregnant women who get it also protect their babies.

She said that while the vaccine is the best defence against flu, only about 43 per cent of Canadians under age 65 were immunized last year, even if they were at risk of complications, compared with 70 per cent of seniors.

“What I’m more concerned about is that people with some chronic medication conditions, such as underlying heart disease or diabetes, are not getting vaccinated.”

Isobel Mackenzie, the advocate for seniors in British Columbia, said over 80 per cent of seniors in long-term care facilities, where the flu shot is offered, get immunized and 74 per cent of staff do, too.

“Where we need to do the work is in the public,” she said, adding people who visit the elderly in care homes are putting them at risk if they aren’t vaccinated.

“To protect grandma from getting the flu it’s actually more effective for you to get your flu shot,” she said.

Unlike most other provinces, B.C. does not provide the flu shot for free, except to people 65 and over, under 19 or if they fit into a broad category, such as if they tend to be around vulnerable people including children and the elderly.

“So why don’t we just say everybody can get it for free?” Mackenzie said. “Everybody who wants it is figuring out how to get it for free anyhow.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2020.

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COVID-19 immunization clinics open to B.C. kids ages five to 11 today – Toronto Star

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VICTORIA – Children in British Columbia between five and 11 years old can start getting shots of a pediatric COVID-19 vaccine today.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said last week that about 350,000 children are eligible to receive the modified dose of the Health Canada-approved Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Health Canada approved the pediatric shot for use in Canada after an independent scientific review confirmed the first vaccine formulated for younger children is safe and effective.

Henry says the same vaccine has been administered to more than three million children in the United States and there have been no “safety signals” as a result.

She says the vaccine will help children and families safely return to activities that benefit physical and mental health.

Dr. Penny Ballem, the executive lead for B.C.’s vaccination drive, has said she expects the full children’s immunization effort including second doses to conclude by the end of January.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 29, 2021.

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COVID-19 immunization clinics open to B.C. kids ages five to 11 today – Times Colonist

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VICTORIA — Children in British Columbia between five and 11 years old can start getting shots of a pediatric COVID-19 vaccine today. 

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said last week that about 350,000 children are eligible to receive the modified dose of the Health Canada-approved Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Health Canada approved the pediatric shot for use in Canada after an independent scientific review confirmed the first vaccine formulated for younger children is safe and effective. 

Henry says the same vaccine has been administered to more than three million children in the United States and there have been no “safety signals” as a result.

She says the vaccine will help children and families safely return to activities that benefit physical and mental health.

Dr. Penny Ballem, the executive lead for B.C.’s vaccination drive, has said she expects the full children’s immunization effort including second doses to conclude by the end of January.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 29, 2021.

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COVID-19: Children between five and 11 are eligible for vaccinations starting Monday – Vancouver Sun

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Health Canada approved the Pfizer vaccine for children aged five to 11 on Nov. 19. This vaccine uses a lower dose of 10 micrograms — one-third of the dose given to older children and adults

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Children in B.C. between five and 11 years old start receiving the first doses of their COVID-19 vaccines on Monday.

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More than 90,000 out of the 350,000 eligible children, or 26 per cent, in that age category were registered a week before the rollout, according to the B.C. government.

The government’s own surveys show that most parents support getting vaccines for their young children, but there are some whose views might keep the vaccination rate lower for this age category.

Of B.C. parents who responded, 58 per cent will register to vaccinate their children right away, while another 18 per cent planned to wait, and nearly 25 per cent said they are not sure they will do it, according to Penny Ballem, the executive lead for B.C.’s immunization efforts.

A parent or legal guardian has to give verbal consent ahead of a child being vaccinated, according to Ballem.

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Health Canada approved the Pfizer vaccine for children aged five to 11 on Nov. 19. This vaccine uses a lower dose of 10 micrograms that is one-third of the dose given to older children and adults.

COVID-19 information from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control from Nov. 25 shows that 80 per cent of British Columbians at the next age group up, aged 12 to 17, are now fully vaccinated and more than 87 per cent have a first dose.

There are varying rates in different health authorities, however. In Fraser, Vancouver Coastal and Vancouver Island, it is higher at 82 per cent, 89 per cent and 83 per cent, respectively. In Interior, it was 70 per cent and in Northern, it was 59 per cent.

Within authorities, there is also a wide spectrum. As of Nov. 23, Enderby and Kettle Creek in the Interior authority had only 38 per cent of 12- to 17-year-olds double vaccinated, while Kimberley posted 80 per cent. In Vancouver Coastal, Bella Coola Valley had 59 per cent of 12- to 17-year-olds double vaccinated, while North Vancouver was at 93 per cent.

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Between Oct. 27 to Nov. 25, the number of average daily cases per 100,000 people among the double vaccinated for this 12 to 17 age group across B.C. was 2.5. Among those who had one vaccination, the number of average daily cases per 100,000 people was 8.2. And for the unvaccinated, the figure was 46.8 per 100,000.

For that same period, in the category of 0-11 year olds, who are all unvaccinated, the number of average daily cases per 100,000 people was 16.8.

“I think the most important thing is that vaccinations be readily available for all children and families,” said Teri Mooring, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation.

“For families where it’s not convenient for them to book an appointment in a separate clinic or perhaps they work long hours or there are other various individual circumstances, we think there should be an option (for COVID-19 vaccination) in schools as well.”

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Mooring said that “it was a concern with the 12- to 17-year-olds as well and what we’re seeing in some parts of the province, where we have vaccine hesitancy, we are still those (vaccination) numbers lag behind. We don’t want that to be the case for the five to 11-year-olds.”

Youth aged 12 to 18 have to carry a B.C. Vaccine card, or have a trusted adult carry one for them, to go to restaurants and attend indoor, organized events. Unlike adults, they don’t have to also show government-issued identification. Children aged five to 11 are not be required to show proof of vaccination.

jlee-young@postmedia.com

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