Actions protect people, B.C. communities this respiratory illness season

Press Release

Sept. 28, 2023

VANCOUVER – The Province and public-health officials are taking actions to continue protecting people, communities and the health-care system this fall and are encouraging people in B.C. aged six months and older to get their COVID-19 and influenza vaccines.

“An increase in hospital visits with the fall respiratory illness season requires measures to ensure our acute care is effective and our health-care system is strong, and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “We all know that getting immunized is the best way for us to protect ourselves, our loved ones and the B.C. health-care workers we rely on. We all know that to keep ourselves healthy and our health-care system strong, we all need to do our part. And by getting our free and readily available COVID-19 and influenza vaccines at the same time, we’re all doing precisely what’s needed.”

When the vaccines start to arrive in B.C. in early October, priority populations will be invited to book vaccine appointments. This includes people most at risk of severe illness and complications, such as seniors 65 and older, residents in long-term care facilities, Indigenous peoples, pregnant people and those with chronic health conditions (e.g., cancer, HIV, hepatitis C, diabetes), as well as health-care workers.

Invitation for immunization appointments for everyone else will begin on Oct. 10, 2023, and people will be able to receive influenza and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time, if they wish. Invitations will roll out incrementally throughout the month of October.

Vaccines will be readily available in many participating pharmacies, health-authority clinics, and some primary-care providers’ offices throughout the province. They remain free and are available for everyone six months and older, including enhanced influenza vaccines for seniors.

“We are starting to see increasing respiratory virus infections in B.C., including COVID-19, and now is the time to remember the healthy habits we can all do to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. “That includes covering your cough, cleaning your hands regularly, staying away from others if you have a cough or a fever, wearing masks if you have lingering symptoms or need extra protection and getting the updated COVID-19 and influenza vaccines. By getting immunized for both COVID-19 and influenza, we are not only protecting ourselves, but also those around us.”

Health Canada approved the updated Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty Omicron XBB.1.5. COVID-19 vaccines on Sept. 28, 2023, and the COVID-19 Moderna Spikevax vaccine on Sept. 12, 2023, and they will be available in B.C. soon. The new vaccines target the XBB.1.5 subvariant and are approved for use in people six months and older. The updated Novavax vaccine is expected to be approved shortly and will also be available throughout the province.

As respiratory infections are increasing in communities in B.C., the risk also increases in health-care facilities where people may be more at risk of severe infections or complications. To increase protections in health-care facilities in the province, medical mask wearing will be required by all health-care workers, volunteers, contractors and visitors in patient care areas starting Oct. 3, 2023.

Long-term care visitors will be required to wear a medical mask when they are in common areas of the home and when participating in indoor events, gatherings, activities in communal areas of the care home or residence.

Ambassadors will be at facility entrances to support screening for symptoms of respiratory illnesses, hand out medical masks, and ensure people clean their hands before entering.

As fall and winter can add more strain to B.C.’s health-care system and to ensure hospitals have capacity in the event of increased demand during the respiratory season, plans are in place to add hospital beds and expediate patient flow as needed. This includes daily co-ordination planning between the Province, health authorities and the BC Emergency Health Services, as well as continuing efforts to strengthen the health-care system through B.C.’s Health Human Resources Strategy.

Learn More:

To view the presentation from Sept. 28, visit:

To learn how to get vaccinated this fall, visit:

A backgrounder follows.


Ministry of Health
250 952-1887 (media line)


Influenza and COVID-19 vaccinations
Updated for clarification

People who are already registered in the provincial Get Vaccinated system will automatically receive an invitation to book their influenza and COVID-19 immunization online when they become due.

Those who are not registered yet are encouraged to do so by visiting:

Although booking through the Get Vaccinated system is the most efficient way to access the vaccines, people can phone the provincial call centre (toll-free) to book their influenza and or COVID-19 vaccines: 1 833 838-2323.

Seniors will continue to receive free enhanced influenza vaccines, which offer better protection against influenza than standard-dose vaccines. This is because they typically stimulate stronger immune responses, which compensate for the natural weakening of the immune system that occurs with age. A stronger immune response can lead to better protection against influenza.

Quick Facts:

  • The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends people get an additional dose of the updated COVID-19 vaccine this fall, or six months since their last COVID-19 vaccine dose or infection (whichever is later).
  • Public-health officials look to the influenza season in the Southern Hemisphere to help anticipate the severity of the season in the Northern Hemisphere.
  • COVID-19 cases and deaths were down overall in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Influenza vaccine strain composition is based on annual recommendations from the World Health Organization.
  • Immunization-related protection against influenza varies from season to season because the circulating influenza viruses may or may not be well-matched to the seasonal influenza vaccine produced for use in the Northern Hemisphere.
  • B.C. has ordered 2.8 million doses of the updated COVID-19 vaccines and 2.3 million doses of the new influenza vaccine for the 2023-24 respiratory illness season, including enhanced influenza vaccines for seniors.
  • Approximately 1,300 pharmacies will be participating in the influenza campaign, and 1,200 pharmacies will be participating in the COVID-19 campaign.
  • Vaccine strain composition is based on annual recommendations from the World Health Organization.


Ministry of Health
250 952-1887 (media line)


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