Fund best-in-class vaccines for seniors - CARP

Fund best-in-class vaccines for seniors

Provinces need to look at what lies beyond COVID-19

CARP recently sent out a press release imploring all provincial governments to ensure that the high-dose flu vaccine is publicly funded for as many seniors as possible, in preparation for this fall.

Read the press release

Seniors across Canada are dying every year from highly preventable illnesses

We know that taking a proactive approach to preventative health care is the best way to ensure seniors live longer lives at home, where they want to be.

In fact, immunization saves more Canadian lives than any other form of health intervention, while reducing burden on our struggling health care system.

We also know that there are several best-in-class vaccinations for the “Big 3” illnesses that pose the most risk to older adults (influenza, pneumonia and shingles), which are proven to be more effective in protecting seniors. These vaccinations are recommended by Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), the trusted body that our governments look to for guidance when planning their immunization strategies.

So if we know all this, it begs the question: why aren’t governments across Canada fully funding these recommended vaccinations, which have the power to save countless lives every year, and making them easily accessible to seniors?

Currently, funding for these vaccinations is hit-and-miss across provincial/territorial lines. The best-in-class (high-dose) flu vaccine is only fully-funded for all seniors in Ontario (some other provinces only fund it for people in long-term care, or not at all). The recommended vaccines for shingles and pneumonia aren’t fully-funded anywhere.

Our immune systems weaken as we age, making vaccinations a critical component in keeping seniors out of hospital, where they are at risk of severe complications. People over 65 years of age make up well over half of all hospitalizations and deaths in Canada related to the flu, and it seems to be getting worse.

The 2018-19 flu season had the highest hospitalization rate in 5 years.

Seniors in long-term care are even more vulnerable—over 60% of flu and pneumonia outbreaks were in care homes in 2018-19—opening frail residents and those with chronic health conditions up to extreme levels of risk.

Without full funding from governments, many people can’t afford to shield themselves with these lifesaving vaccines, which can cost up to $300 per person.

Seniors deserve to live with the peace of mind that they’re protecting from the highly preventable illnesses that pose a real (and annually recurring) threat to their lives.

Every year that these vaccines go unfunded for all seniors, millions of lives are put at risk. It just doesn’t make sense.

CARP is demanding that best-in-class vaccines for seniors be publicly funded, and easily accessible, in all provinces and territories.

This is the best way to keep seniors out of hospitals, reducing care costs and keeping older adults healthy and active in their communities.

  • Best-in-class vaccines should be included in any national pharmacare plan
  • Vaccines should be made available in multiple avenues, including through pharmacies and other accessible points of distribution nation-wide
  • Adult immunization should become a preventative health priority for all provinces and territories

Quick Facts

  • There is a correlation between public funding of vaccines and vaccine coverage. A recent survey revealed only 28% of people 50+ had received the shingles vaccine while 58% of older adults had received the publicly-funded pneumococcal vaccine (CARP is lobbying for the other vaccine option to be funded, as well)
  • Seniors fall well below the federal immunization rate goal (80% of the population vaccinated) for all 3 of the Big 3 illnesses (influenza, pneumococcal and shingles)
  • Seniors are at risk of severe and long lasting complications from hospitalization resulting from infection

Influenza

  • Adults 65 years of age and older have the highest overall hospitalization rate (60%), and the highest likelihood of death, from influenza (60% and 66% respectively, in 2018-19)
  • Seniors in long-term care are at increased risk of contracting flu. 62% of reported outbreaks in 2018-19 were in long-term care facilities, and a further 22% were in other settings (e.g. retirement homes, correctional facilities, etc.)
  • The high-dose flu vaccine is proven 24% more effective for seniors

Pneumococcal (Pneumonia)

  • Seniors in long-term care are at increased risk of contracting pneumonia. 62% of reported outbreaks in 2018-19 were in long-term care facilities, and a further 22% were in other settings (e.g. retirement homes, correctional facilities, etc.)

Shingles

  • Shingles can affect anyone who has not had the chickenpox vaccine, including people who had chickenpox as a child
  • There are about 130,000 cases in Canada every year, with nearly 1 in 3 people developing shingles in their lifetime
  • 10% of cases lead to hospitalization
  • Research shows the newer vaccine has an effectiveness of over 90%

Adult Immunization Guide

This handy guide helps you keep track of your vaccinations and includes a full schedule of the ones you should get to fully protect yourself from the illnesses that pose the biggest risk to older adults.

Download the guide

Ongoing commentary

CARP has been in the media, driving home the importance of fully-funded best-in-class vaccines for older adults.

View our commentary