Peak season: October-May, with most cases occurring in the winter months.
Transmission: RSV is spread by inhaling or coming into contact with respiratory droplets on contaminated surfaces.
Signs and symptoms: RSV impacts the lungs and breathing passages. While it can start out mild with slight congestion, sore throat, and/or fever, RSV can become a serious illness, leaving people breathless, coughing up mucus, and vulnerable to bacterial pneumonia.
Risk of severe impacts: Adults aged 60 and older are at greater risk of severe RSV infection, which can lead to hospitalization or even death. As are people who are immunocompromised, have lung diseases like asthma or COPD, or who have underlying conditions like diabetes, congestive heart failure, or kidney disease. Here’s why.
- Immunosenescence: The immune system ages as we age, and becomes less equipped to fight off illness.
- As you get older, it can be harder to recover and return to pre-virus levels of function. Older adults are more likely to have other health conditions, which can exacerbate the impacts of RSV.
- RSV infection can also lead to the worsening of health conditions like asthma, COPD and congestive heart failur
Great news: A Health Canada approved vaccine means we now have an RSV vaccine for older adults with safety and efficacy proven through multiple evidence-based clinical trials with thousands of participants. With respiratory virus season upon us, consider speaking to your doctor about vaccination against RSV.
However, while the RSV vaccine is available in Canada, it is not yet funded by the government (with the exception of long-term care homes, elder care lodges and some retirement residences in Ontario).
Why not? Well firstly, before making funding decisions provinces typically rely on recommendations regarding which populations a vaccine program should cover from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), a committee of experts that the government looks to for medical, scientific and public health advice. Currently, the RSV vaccine is being reviewed by NACI and the outcome of their review is expected sometime in 2024. RSV vaccines have already been reviewed and recommended for target age groups by similar expert committees in other countries, including the US and UK. Historically, we know that vaccines recommended by NACI’s counterpart in the United States (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices – ACIP), are ultimately recommended by NACI.
However, too often even with a NACI-recommendation, provinces and territories will decide not to fund key vaccines. For instance, while some seniors across Canada get the best available vaccinations related to the flu, pneumonia or shingles for free through the government, others must pay if they want to help protect themselves. All seniors should have equal access to the most effective available vaccines in Canada. We know from a recent CARP survey that older Canadians agree. In fact, a whopping 95% of our respondents believe all NACI-recommended vaccines for older adults should be covered by the government.
You can help tell the government that the RSV vaccine needs to be funded for seniors and other vulnerable individuals HERE.