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Prioritize vaccinations to keep older Canadians healthy

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Prioritize vaccinations to keep older Canadians healthy

Less than 10% of Canadian seniors have the basic required vaccines due to major gaps in access and funding. As a result, older people in our country today are needlessly at risk of serious complications caused by the flu, shingles and pneumonia.  With COVID-19 now an on-going part of our lives, on top of these other infectious diseases, we’re facing a recipe for disaster unless we fix adult vaccination systems – right now.

Vaccines save people, and people save economies.
By protecting seniors from serious and sometimes fatal health complications, proper immunization not only keeps people healthy, but also relieves our healthcare system.  

The NACI recommended adult vaccines: Influenza, Pneumonia, Shingles, Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis – must not only be “recommended” by the federal government – they need to be funded too.  

Increasing the immunization rate in seniors is an obvious choice, and our federal government should take leadership to achieve this under its public health mandate – as it did for COVID19 vaccines. 

The problem

Getting needed vaccines is quite literally a matter of life and death. We vaccinate children on a schedule at no cost to parents, but once we turn 18, it all falls apart.  Older adults’ immune systems need specific vaccines designed for them – but provincial and territorial governments have created a truly dreadful patchwork of which vaccines are covered, where and how to get them.  It makes no sense, and seniors pay with their health and in many cases, their lives.

Major gaps in access and funding means that keeping up to date with routine vaccinations can be costly, time consuming and more difficult to achieve than necessary. This is even  harder for those with low income and chronic conditions or for Canadians in rural and remote areas.  

The federal government’s process for the approval, procurement and prioritization of needed vaccines is painfully out of date. This needs fixing now.  The federal government should follow its own public health recommendations, order the needed vaccines and ensure that they are distributed without barriers. 

Our world has changed and our vaccination systems need to keep up. It is no longer good enough to ignore immunization, calling it “the provinces’ problem”. COVID-19 has taught us that we need the federal government’s focus on vaccines now and in the future. 

Our solution

We’re asking all federal parties to commit to increasing immunization rates in older adults by increasing domestic vaccine production and streamlining processes for reviewing, approving, purchasing and tracking vaccines. Governments should also work together to increase awareness and availability of vaccines, which means more access points that require less effort, and little to no costs associated with becoming immunized. 

  1. Vaccine Funding matters
    The federal government should fully fund adult vaccinations to recommended levels.  Fully funding best-in-class vaccines for seniors takes the budgetary finger-pointing and patchwork coverage across Canada out of the equation and keeps people, health systems and economies working.

  2. Vaccine Access matters
    Vaccines don’t help unless you can get them out of the fridges and into the arms of people who need them.  We need to make sure that we reduce barriers of cost, location of uptake and streamline the systems of approval, procurement and distribution.

  3. Vaccine Awareness matters
    Creating an Adult Vaccination Schedule and Adult Vaccination Registry, providing a clear schedule and record for all adult vaccinations can also be effective for ensuring seniors know which vaccines to get and when. Culturally appropriate information and awareness campaigns need to be created to overcome vaccine hesitancy and to ensure we take adult vaccinations as seriously as we do childhood vaccinations. 

Our Members have spoken

We surveyed our members to get their opinions on this issue. Here’s what they had to say.

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246 Bloor Street W
Toronto, ON, M5S 1V4

Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work
University of Toronto

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