Seniors face government barriers to access high dose flu shot

Flu season is only weeks away and concerns are rising over access to the high-dose flu vaccines. Many seniors require a high dose shot to properly combat the influenza virus. In Nova Scotia, seniors outside of long-term care homes pay out of pocket for this shot.

Pharmacists have expressed concerns over the lack of access they have to the public supply of the high-dose vaccine, making it harder to secure enough access to vaccines for seniors.

“The Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia is 100% in support of the Nova Scotia Government providing the high dose vaccine to our senior population, regardless of where they reside,” says Allison Bodnar, CEO (PANS). “This year seniors living outside of long-term care homes who are willing to pay, will likely not receive the high dose flu vaccine.”

Provinces are planning for higher uptake of the flu shot this year as fear increases due to the rise in COVID-19 cases. Officials are recommending people get the flu shot in an attempt to ease the burden on hospitals as COVID-19 cases increase. Another problem is that many seniors can’t afford the $100 price tag to pay out-of-pocket.

“Seniors are more vulnerable to the flu and they require the high dose version of the vaccine,” says Tim Houston, Progressive Conservative Leader and MLA for Pictou East. “We don’t know if the government has adequate supply of the required high dose vaccine for seniors. It is mid-October and we don’t know if our healthcare system can protect our most vulnerable members of society.”

Seniors face many health obstacles, especially during the last seven months with the complications of COVID-19. Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, MLA for Cumberland North and a nurse by trade says the high dose flu shot is an important tool to fight the flu virus because, as we age, our immune system declines.

"If the government understands the need for a high dose flu vaccine, then they should make it available to everyone over the age of 65,” said Smith-McCrossin. “There is evidence-based on research that the high dose flu vaccine is 24% more effective in persons over 65. Our seniors should not be discriminated against if they have made the choice to stay in their home rather than move to a long-term care facility.”

“Prevention is always the best medicine and vaccines provide protection from illness and death. We should always be providing the best available vaccines based on the research.”

The McNeil Liberals have no immediate plans to change how it delivers the high dose flu vaccine for seniors. This is a healthcare decision, not a political one.

“These essential high dose vaccines should be accessible to all seniors, why can’t the Liberal government provide this healthcare to our seniors when PEI has made this vaccine accessible to all seniors,” says Houston.