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Expert applauds B.C.'s flu vaccine plan, recent COVID-19-driven changes

FILE -- Specimens to be tested for COVID-19 are seen at LifeLabs after being logged upon receipt at the company's lab, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

An infectious diseases specialist says B.C. is ticking most of the right boxes when it comes to dealing with COVID-19

Dr. Isaac Bogoch says B.C.'s on the right track with its flu vaccination, COVID-19 testing, and contact tracing plans

B.C. has ordered nearly two million doses of the flu shot in anticipation of the fall and winter seasons

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – An infectious diseases expert likes what he sees when it comes to B.C.’s plan to deal with the flu season in the midst of a global pandemic.

The province’s is bringing in more flu shots, more COVID-19 testing, and more contact tracing as part of its plan heading into the fall and winter seasons.

All of it is important in the months ahead, says Dr. Isaac Bogoch.

“It really sounds like an all-hands-on-deck approach. I mean, a big campaign to get people to get the flu shot when it comes out,” the infectious diseases specialist, based out of the Toronto General Hospital, tells NEWS 1130.

“Also, responding to this significant rise in COVID-19 cases in the province, taking steps to really understand who’s getting infected and where they’re getting infected, and then taking steps to help prevent that.”

B.C. has ordered nearly two million doses of the flu shot — more than any other year — and it plans to hire an extra 7,000 people to work in the healthcare system.

Daily COVID-19 testing capacity is also set to double to 20,000.

Several strategies

In addition to B.C.’s flu-vaccine focus, Bogoch says the province is on the right track with some other recently introduced changes.

Bogoch says there’s always going to be a “tightrope walk” between reopening economies and public health. However, he says you need a healthy public in order to have a healthy economy.

“Under terrific public health leadership, the banquet halls and nightclubs are both closed and there’s some additional regulations on bars. So, I think these sound like very appropriate first steps.”

There are several areas that Bogoch says are key to keeping the public safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic, one being early detection systems. Such systems would allow officials to find and address outbreaks quickly so they don’t “snowball” into a bigger problem.

“In addition to early detection systems, timely access to diagnostic testing, low barriers to diagnostic testing. Ensuring there’s appropriate laboratory capacity such that there can be rapid turnaround times of the diagnostic tests. And, of course, the contact tracers really need to do their jobs thoroughly, but also very quickly as well.”

Uptick in cases

Like many other provinces, B.C. continues to see an uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases.

However, Bogoch believes British Columbians are in the right hands. Applauding Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and her efforts in B.C., Bogoch tells NEWS 1130 she has “steered British Columbia” in the right direction over the past several months.

“Of course, there’s a challenge when you have a rise in cases, and it’s extremely important to make data-driven decisions and really make data-driven policy. So you’ve got to understand who’s getting infected and where they’re getting infected, such that your public health response actually has meaningful impact,” Bogoch explains.