FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Newfoundland and Labrador Receives a Failing Grade in CanAge's Latest Vaccine Report Card
St. John's, NL – Sept. 13, ‘23 In the third annual Vaccine Report Card (2022-23), CanAge, Canada's national seniors advocacy organization, has awarded Newfoundland and Labrador a failing grade of "F." With seniors making up nearly a quarter of the province's population, comprehensive vaccination strategies are imperative to safeguard the health of this significant demographic.
Newfoundland and Labrador funds a senior-specific flu vaccine for those in long-term care, the choice of vaccine is not the one most often recommended, or recently funded by the federal government. This discrepancy is notable, considering Newfoundland and Labrador's status as one of Canada's "oldest" provinces. CanAge finds it concerning that the province does not have a more robust flu program for its senior population, especially as this demographic is projected to grow its aging population further in the coming years.
Despite documented calls from Newfoundland and Labrador seniors, the province does not fund vaccines for shingles, leaving 23.56% of the total population at risk of this painful and debilitating condition. CanAge CEO Laura Tamblyn Watts notes that “Public funding for the highly effective (94%+) shingles vaccine needs to be an immediate priority for governments. Shingles is hugely painful and debilitating, and treating it requires significant acute care costs which could be almost completely avoided through vaccination”.
Furthermore, CanAge did not find any evidence that the province has updated its vaccine supply for pneumonia in line with the recommendations made by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) over six months ago. Tamblyn Watts cautions that, “The best-in-class pneumonia vaccinations are critical for vulnerable seniors, or any adult living in a long-term or congregate care settings. A wave of infectious pneumonia spreading through vulnerable populations is deadly. Many of those deaths can be prevented by the new pneumonia vaccine."
With a senior population of 123,939, Newfoundland and Labrador must reconsider its influenza and pneumonia vaccine access programs. There is a pressing need to ensure that seniors have easy access to these critical vaccines. CanAge did not find a vaccine outreach program in Newfoundland and Labrador. The organization encourages the province to provide access to mobile vaccine services for seniors using NL's Home Support and Special Assistance programs. Ensuring that vaccines reach seniors where they are is vital to improve coverage rates.
Interesting to note that in 2015, a report by the C.D. Howe Institute highlighted Newfoundland and Labrador's strong vaccination culture, contributing to the province having the highest vaccination rates in the country. However, recent developments during the pandemic have revealed changing attitudes and rifts between families on the topic of vaccinations. This underscores the need for targeted campaigns focused on seniors and other vulnerable groups.
Tamblyn Watts emphasizes the importance of vaccination for seniors, stating, “We have 3 key vaccines which are critical to adult health, particularly for seniors, with a 4th (RSV) likely on the way. Vaccines only work if they are funded, easily accessible and communicated with solid information through trusted sources.”
The COVID19 pandemic may now be over, but vaccine-preventable disease is not. We must get serious about immunization or pay the price in lost lives, a broken health care system, and a stumbling economy. If COVID19 taught us anything, it taught us that,” warns Tamblyn Watts.
The "F" grade serves as a call to action for Newfoundland and Labrador to bridge gaps and strengthen immunization efforts for older adults.
For further information, & to book interviews, please contact:
Media Relations, CanAge