Vancouver, BC – As of today all visitors to Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) facilities are being asked to wear a surgical mask if they haven't received their annual flu shot. The policy is part of the province's strategy to prevent the spread of flu and protect already vulnerable patients from a potentially fatal infection.
"The flu can be devastating for our patients because many have chronic health problems including weakened immune systems and are more susceptible to serious illness," says VCH's Medical Health Officer Dr. Meena Dawar. "The best way to protect your loved ones in hospital is to get a flu shot, even if you're normally a healthy individual. The shot will not only protect you from getting the flu, but also the people around you."
The policy is applicable to all patient care areas in VCH hospitals, residential care homes and other health facilities between December 1, 2017 and March 31, 2018. Flu shots for visitors are free and can be obtained at your family doctor, walk-in clinics or pharmacies. The ImmunizeBC website lists all clinics across B.C. at immunizebc.ca.
People who have not had a flu shot can obtain a mask at a nursing station or outpatient reception desk. Doctors, staff, students and volunteers are also required to get immunized or wear a mask while at work during the flu season.
Flu shots are free in B.C. for all children from six months to five years of age, people 65 years and older, Aboriginal people, those with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems, and for anyone who lives or works with a person who is at higher risk of problems from the flu. Flu shots are also free for anyone visiting any Vancouver Coastal Health facility, including people who are accompanying people to their appointments.
The shot is also free for pregnant women and, when given during pregnancy, it's been shown to protect both the mother and her developing baby from serious flu-related complications. Pregnant women are more prone to developing severe illness from flu due to changes in the heart, lungs and immune system during pregnancy. A pregnant woman who gets the flu also has a greater chance that her baby will suffer premature labor and delivery.
VCH is responsible for the delivery of $3.3 billion in community, hospital and residential care to more than one million people in communities including Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola. VCH also provides highly specialized care and services for people throughout BC, and is the province's hub of health care education and research.