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CanAge writes to ON Government urging action on decline in vaccine uptake

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CanAge recently co-signed a joint letter to Premier of Ontario Doug Ford urging action on rapidly declining rates of routine vaccinations. Data shows the number of people getting their regular vaccinations has heavily dropped off during the pandemic, leaving older Canadians vulnerable to preventable diseases like the flu, shingles, pneumonia.

Full text of the letter follows.


April 25, 2022
Premier Doug Ford
Legislative Bldg Rm 281
Queen’s Park
Toronto, ON
M7A 1A1

Dear Premier Ford,

Re: Urgent request to address decline in routine immunizations across all Ontarians

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ontario is facing another unprecedented public health crisis when it comes to routine (e.g., non COVID-19) vaccinations. Uptake of routine vaccinations that are critical to preventing severe illness, including cancers, have declined precipitously. For instance, Public Health Ontario1,2 reports that from 2017-18 to 2020-21 we have seen coverage of school-based vaccines decline sharply from:

  • Humanpapilloma virus (HPV) vaccine: 59.9% → 0.8%
  • Hepatitis B vaccine: 69.2% → 16.8%
  • Conjugated meningitis vaccine: 82.4% → 17.3%

School-based programs are not the only routine vaccinations on decline. Preventative vaccinations for
seniors such as, shingles and pneumonia, have also seen an almost 50% decline since the start of the
pandemic, as family doctors moved many of their appointments online.

Polling from 19 To Zero and the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada from the fall of 2021
have shown that approximately one in four Canadians have missed other vital, routine vaccinations for
themselves or their child.

It is essential that we address these declines and recover our rates of routine vaccine coverage to protect the
health of Ontarians. Fortunately, there is a relatively simple remedy for improving routine vaccine coverage.
Declines in coverage have been largely driven by challenges accessing the vaccine during the pandemic, a
time when normal points of vaccination (e.g., family physicians’ offices, schools) were, very
understandably, closed or providing virtual services.

Access could be dramatically improved by allowing pharmacies to provide publicly funded vaccines.
Ontario’s 4,600 pharmacies played a critical role in the rollout and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine
– and so too could they play a critical role in restoring access to routine vaccines.

As this pending health crisis is imminent, we call on the Government of Ontario to address the access
challenges for all routine immunizations immediately, and as this week is National Immunization
Week this is no better time to do so. Increasing access points across Ontario, to include pharmacy,
will protect the most vulnerable from preventative diseases such as HPV and shingles, but also
protect our health system as it continues to recover from the pandemic. The unnecessary burden of
hospitalizations from completely preventable illnesses is not what our hospitals and health care
professionals need.

We appreciate your consideration on this matter and will make ourselves available to discuss this should
you or your team have any questions.

Sincerely,

Jia Hu, MD MSc CCFP FRCPC
Public Health and Preventive Medicine Physician
CEO – 19 To Zero
www.19tozero.ca

Laura Tamblyn Watts
Founder and CEO of CanAge
Canada’s national seniors’ advocacy organization
www.canage.ca

Sandra Hanna, RPh.
CEO of Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada
www.neighbourhoodpharmacies.ca

Cc:
Hon. Christine Elliott, Minister of Health
Hon. Raymond Cho, Minister of Seniors and Accessibility
James Wallace, Chief of Staff to the Premier of Ontario
Patrick Sackville, Premier’s Office
Laurel Brazil, Office of the Minister of Health

1 Public Health Ontario: Immunization Coverage Report for School Pupils in Ontario – 2017-18 School Year
2 Public Health Ontario: Immunization Coverage Report for School-Based Programs in Ontario – 2019-20 and 2020-
21 School Years

Related

246 Bloor Street W
Toronto, ON, M5S 1V4

Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work
University of Toronto

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