The H1N1 Vaccine and Canadians Over 65: We Asked for You

We received a lot of inquiries from members perturbed about the initial exclusion of those over 65 from the priority groups. We challenged the person from the Emergency Management Branch of the Ontario Ministry of Health to give a better explanation of their decision in light the complaints we fielded. This is the response we received.

It has been reported that 4.8 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine will be delivered to the province by Sunday November 22nd 2009. Before now the largest shipment to be delivered had been two million doses. This means clinics are now welcoming everyone who wants to be immunized.

Below is the answer we received when we asked those 65 and over were not identified in first priority group for H1N1 vaccine

• Priority groups were based on current evidence and were established nationally among provinces, territories and the federal government
• Evidence indicates that those 65 and over are less susceptible and at lower risk of acquiring H1N1 influenza, due to factors such as residual immunity from the 1957 influenza pandemic. Evidence also indicates that those 65 years and older are potentially more vulnerable to seasonal influenza that circulates every year.

• The initial priority group structure focused on those at highest risk of H1N1 and therefore did not include those 65 and over. However, due to the potential higher risk of seasonal flu for this age group, the province recommended early immunization of those 65 and over and residents of long-term care homes with the seasonal flu vaccine
• As of November 19, 2009 Ontario expanded the H1N1 immunization program to all Ontarians over 6 months of age.

Keywords: immunization, seniors, H1N1