Top 5 Vaccines for Seniors

If you haven’t yet had your seasonal or other recommended vaccines, should you just skip them and wait until next fall? Not at all. Now is still an excellent time to get immunized and help protect yourself. In fact, even seasonal respiratory viruses like the flu, COVID-19 and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) can circulate through to May. Great news: for the first time ever, older Canadians now have a vaccine to protect against RSV and help combat another ‘tripledemic.’

Refresher: How do vaccinations work?

Many vaccinations work by exposing our bodies to key parts of bacterium or viruses, called antigens, in a safe way so our immune system can develop an immune response. If we are later exposed to that bacterium or virus, our immune system helps prevent us from getting the disease, or prevent us from getting seriously ill.

Some people are at higher risk of severe complications from vaccine-preventable diseases due to advancing age or other factors, such as being immunocompromised or having underlying health conditions.

While you may be doing everything you can to stay healthy, the immune system (your body’s defense against infection) also ages as you get older and can, therefore, have a harder time fighting off viruses and bacteria.

In short, getting vaccinated is not just to keep you from feeling really unwell. It’s to keep you from potentially ending up in the hospital, from having longer-term impacts that erode your ability to live independently, or worse. So, if you’re behind with your vaccines or unsure of what is recommended, take this as your sign to reach out to your doctor’s office or local pharmacy to ask about which vaccines are right for you.

FIVE Vaccines that Help Protect Older Canadians

Immunizations are one of the simplest and most powerful interventions you can take to help protect your health and quality of life. If you have missed any of the below vaccines, make your next visit to your doctor count. In most cases, you can safely get more than one vaccine at a time.


Currently under review by NACI, expected in 2024.

What is it? Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common virus that affects the lungs and respiratory airways. While you may not have heard much about it before this year, RSV is not a new virus. It’s just that until now older adults haven’t had a way to help protect against it.

Why get vaccinated? RSV is usually mild but in adults aged 60 and older it can cause lower lung disease and serious complications such as pneumonia, or worsen underlying conditions, such as congestive heart failure (CHF), asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In industrialized countries, approximately 470,000 seniors (60+) are hospitalized due to RSV each year.

How often? The currently available RSV vaccine has been shown to help protect against lower lung disease caused by RSV for at least two seasons.

Funding? Currently funded only in Ontario for those over 60+ in living in long-term care homes, Elder Care Lodges, and some retirement homes licensed to provide dementia care services.

Send an email to tell your elected officials that RSV vaccination should be funded for all older Canadians here.


What is it? COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the SARS- CoV-2 virus. It can cause no symptoms or mild to severe illness.

Why get vaccinated? Over 56,500 people have died from COVID-19 in Canada since the start of the pandemic. You can help protect yourself from getting very sick with COVID-19 by getting vaccinated. Those at risk of more severe outcomes include older Canadians, those who are immunocompromised, and those with chronic conditions.

How often?  It’s recommended that you get an updated COVID-19 vaccine dose if it’s been at least 6 months since your last COVID-19 vaccination or since you last had COVID-19 (whichever happened later).

Funding? Available free of charge in Canada.


What is it? Influenza is a respiratory illness that can cause fever, cough, muscle aches, headaches, sore throat and tiredness. Some people only get mildly ill, while others can get very sick.

Why get vaccinated? Adults over 65 are at risk of severe and long-term health outcomes, or even death. Immunization has been shown to prevent 40% of hospitalizations due to influenza in adults 65+[3].

How often? Once a year, ahead of or during flu season which begins in early fall and lasts untilspring

Funding? Available throughout Canada; however most effective high-dose flu vaccine for seniors not yet free of charge in all regions of Canada


What is it? Pneumococcal disease is a name for any infection caused by bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae, or pneumococcus. Pneumococcal infections can range from pneumonia (an inflammation in the lungs) to ear, sinus and bloodstream infections.

Why get vaccinated? Pneumonia is among the top 10 causes of death in Canada.  In fact, 87% of those who die from pneumonia are adults 65+

How often? A dose of pneumococcal vaccine has been shown to provide lasting protection.

Funding? Every province and territory provides a pneumococcal vaccine for free for adults aged 65 and older, though some pneumococcal vaccines are only funded for specific groups.


What is it? Shingles (herpes zoster) is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you’ve had chickenpox, the virus stays in your body in nerve cells and can later become active again, causing shingles.

Why get vaccinated? One in three Canadians will get shingles in their lifetime, and it can lead to debilitating nerve pain. Two thirds of all shingles cases occur in adults over age 50.

Research shows that the currently available shingles vaccine has an efficacy of over 90%.

How often? Two doses, with a gap of 2 to 6 months between doses. Currently no recommendation for boosters.

Funding? The shingles vaccine is currently only included in public immunization programs for certain age cohorts in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, PEI and the Yukon. Consult the Ministry of Health in those provinces for eligibility criteria.

If you’re unsure of what you’ve had, check with your doctor who may have many of your immunizations electronically on record. You can also consider a resource like canimmunize, which securely stores your vaccination records and helps you get vaccinated on time.

Visit for more information and to stay as well as you can for as long as you can.

This information was made possible with the support of GSK. Views expressed belong entirely to CARP.