Most of us are unlikely to give much thought to the flu during the sunny, warm days of summer. But this is precisely the time that provincial governments need to look ahead, plan, and procure vaccines for the upcoming influenza season.
With increasing evidence that the high-dose vaccine is especially beneficial to older adults, provincial governments are starting to act. Manitoba has already committed to funding the high-dose vaccine for those over 65 living in long-term care homes. Ontario has committed to funding the vaccine for older adults in the 2018-2019 flu season.
Now, Nova Scotia has followed suit and committed to making the vaccine available to long-term care residents in the upcoming flu season. The government will purchase more than 7,000 doses of the vaccine for adults living in long-term and residential care facilities across the province. It believes that immunizing all long-term care residents with the high-dose vaccine could result in 100 fewer hospital days.
It’s well-known that vaccination is the most effective means of prevention for influenza. Unfortunately, older adults are less likely to respond well to the vaccine, leaving them to depend on herd immunity for protection.
Influenza-related complications result in 12,000 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths every year in Canada. The prevalence of high-risk medical conditions increases with age, with 70% of Canadians aged 65 or over experiencing at least one high-risk condition.
Since vaccination rates in Canada are at a low 40% and getting lower, older adults are less likely to be protected by herd immunity and may benefit from a high-dose flu vaccine that has been shown, in preliminary trials, to be more effective in older adults. The high-dose vaccine contains four times the dose compared to standard vaccines.
The NIA will continue to advocate for universal funding for the influenza vaccination in all provinces and for new guidelines that strongly recommend the influenza vaccine for all health care providers. Ultimately, the NIA wants governments to follow the evidence and introduce a life-course vaccination schedule for all older adults.
The National Institute on Ageing (NIA) is a university-based think tank focused on leading cross-disciplinary research, thought leadership, innovative solutions, policies, and products on ageing. The NIA’s mission is to help governments, health care systems, pension plans, businesses, and Canadian families to best meet the challenges and opportunities posed to ageing Canadians and by an ageing demographic. Follow us on Twitter and sign up for our mailing list.
By Allan McKee, Communications Officer, National Institute on Ageing | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org