Canada scores failing grade on vaccinating seniors in scathing new report

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Leading advocacy organization calls for immediate prioritization of vaccination

Toronto, February 23, 2021: CanAge, Canada’s national seniors advocacy organization, has released a groundbreaking report assigning each province and territory a grade on their immunization efforts—a core pillar of protecting the health of older adults. ‘Adult Vaccination in Canada: Cross-Country Report Card 2021’, the first report of its kind in Canada, culminates a nation-wide objective assessment of how effectively each province and territory funds and makes accessible the best-in-class vaccines for older adults in line with NACI (National Advisory Committee on Immunization) recommendations. 

The average overall score across the country was a D-, raising serious concerns for the health and safety of Canada’s more than 6.8 million seniors. Ontario and PEI are clear frontrunners in immunization, each earning B- for above-average vaccine coverage. At the other end of the spectrum, Nunavut, Newfoundland & Labrador, and Yukon scored the lowest overall, with all three earning a failing grade of F for their alarming underperformance.

The impetus for the report comes out of a pressing need to bring attention to critical gaps in vaccine uptake among seniors, especially against influenza, shingles, and pneumonia—the three most common infectious illnesses that account for thousands of preventable hospitalizations and deaths in older adults every year. Medical experts are sounding the alarm that, if governments continue to under-prioritize vaccination programs as the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, the results could be disastrous. 

“Older adults unnecessarily suffer serious health impacts from vaccine-preventable diseases such as influenza, pneumonia and shingles. For many seniors, getting the vaccinations they need is quite literally a matter of life and death,” says Laura Tamblyn Watts, CEO of CanAge. “This pandemic has revealed the tragic truth that, when we ignore preventive measures against infectious diseases, older adults pay with their lives.” Tamblyn Watts goes on to say that this report was born out of a need to “paint a stark and objective picture of how much work there is to be done at a provincial level to protect our older population with the expert-recommended vaccines they need to stay healthy.”

“Canada does a good job vaccinating children, but does a terrible job vaccinating adults and seniors,” notes Tamblyn Watts.

“Even though flu-related hospitalizations and deaths dipped this year due to physical distancing and masking measures during COVID-19, this is no time to let our guard down. Medical experts are cautioning that this is the time to invest in immunization to prevent another tragic wave of preventable deaths next year.”

In 2020, CanAge launched its policy platform: VOICES of Canada’s Seniors: A Roadmap to an Age-Inclusive Canada. Developed through an exhaustive coast-to-coast consultative process, VOICES pulls from evidence-based reviews, highlights best practices, and identifies stubborn or complex issues affecting older people. This report is grounded in the priority area of “Infection Prevention and Disaster Response” (represented by the “I” in VOICES).

CanAge timed the release of this report to align with provincial and territorial budget planning in an effort to bring attention to this important issue. It has been sent directly to each provincial/territorial government. Read the full report on the CanAge website.

About CanAge

CanAge is Canada’s national seniors’ advocacy organization, working to improve the lives of older adults through advocacy, policy, and community engagement. We are non-partisan and backed by a national membership base. CanAge has quickly established itself as Canada’s national advocate for issues affecting older adults in our country, having ramped up operations last year in urgent response to the threat COVID-19 poses to vulnerable seniors in long-term care. Find out more.


Canada’s National Seniors’ Advocacy Organization

Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work
University of Toronto

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