Close to 1,073,000 doses of influenza vaccine and almost 850,000 COVID-19 vaccines have been administered to British Columbians since the province's fall vaccination program started six weeks ago.
The numbers were revealed by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix at a media conference updating the status of the current respiratory illness season and provincial vaccine campaign.
COVID-19 levels hit a peak in early October, according to Henry, but have now started coming down. As of Nov. 9, there were 244 patients in hospital, eight of those in critical care.
"Our hospitalizations are primarily in people who are over age 60, and particularly, most of the severe illness is in older people over age 80," said Henry.
"Although I have to say unvaccinated people at any age remain at greatest risk and highest risk of having more severe illness, ending up in hospital as well, and with the potential of having long COVID."
According to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, there were 144 new COVID-19 hospitalizations in the week ending on Nov. 4, fewer than half the 296 hospitalizations three weeks earlier.
Among those tested for COVID-19 under the province's medical services plan, positive tests dropped to 15.8 per cent, compared with a peak of 23.4 per cent five weeks earlier.
There were 36 deaths among people with COVID-19 last week, down from a peak of 70 two weeks earlier, although the BCCDC cautions the information in both weeks is preliminary.
Flu vaccine a good match for viruses circulating: Henry
Henry said in terms of other infectious diseases, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) was starting to rise in children but is relatively low across all age groups.
Influenza activity is also starting to increase, she said, but remains low and at a level comparable with before the COVID-19 pandemic.
About 80 per cent of the flu virus being detected are influenza A or the H1N1 strain, but Henry said the rare influenza B Yamagata strain has also been found.
"Interestingly ... we haven't seen it worldwide in the last two years. So that's an interesting phenomena that we're watching as well," she said.
Henry said based on the early data, this year's flu vaccine is a good match for fighting the viruses going around.
She also stressed that people living near or working in poultry farms should get the flu vaccine to protect against H5N1 avian influenza that has decimated 16 poultry farms in B.C. so far this fall. On rare occasions, H5N1 can transmit to humans.
"It's very concerning at this time of year when we're starting to see human influenza viruses circulating. We really urge people working with birds to prioritize getting your vaccines and making sure you're not a potential source of infections to the flocks as well," said Henry.
Outbreaks at health facilities
Henry said although there have been a number of COVID-19 outbreaks declared at health facilities, the level of illness has generally been less severe than in the past.
On Thursday, a COVID-19 outbreak was declared at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital's centre unit where 15 infected people experienced mild illness, according to regional authority Island Health.
The hospital is around 20 kilometres north of downtown Victoria.
A COVID-19 outbreak was declared at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital, pictured here on Google Street View. Fifteen infected people experienced mild illness, according Island Health. (Google)
There are also ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at Abbotsford Regional and Chilliwack General hospitals in the Fraser Health region.
Dix said despite a few glitches, the provincial vaccination booking system was working well and more appointment spaces were being added in places like Oliver, Osoyoos, Peachland, Courtenay and Lake Cowichan, where demand has outstripped supply at times.
He said on Thursday, more than 30,000 people received vaccinations and more than 26,000 appointment spaces were added to the system.