Tell the Government to Fund the Shingles Vaccine for everyone 50 and over

One third of all Canadians will get shingles in their lifetime, and the likelihood increases with age, as does the risk of serious complications. The good news? There’s a vaccine. The bad news? Most provinces don’t fund it despite strong recommendation from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.  But you can do something about it. Read More

As a senior, you are well aware of the importance of your health and wellbeing, and the last thing any of us wants is a virus such as shingles that can interrupt your momentum, temporarily or in a more lasting way.

The Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) understands the importance of senior health, which is why one of our priorities is immunization. Over the past 50 years, immunization has saved more lives in Canada than any other health intervention[1], and contributes to helping older Canadians live longer, healthier lives. Despite this, the unfortunate reality is that benefits of disease-preventing vaccines are not equally accessible across Canada. CARP wants this to change so that your postal code doesn’t dictate your access to health. See below how you can help make that happen.

Shingles is an example of a vaccine-preventable illness—but the vaccine is not necessarily affordable to everyone in Canada.

Shingles (Herpes Zoster) is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. If you’ve had chicken pox in the past, the virus remains dormant in your body and can reactivate later in life as shingles. The virus tends to reactivate when a person’s immune system is weakened because of advancing age, stress, or other health conditions.

People with shingles often experience pain, tingling or itching and then a painful rash. The rash can occur anywhere on the body, although it is usually in one strip on the right or left side of the body. The groups of small, fluid-filled blisters that form the rash ultimately dry, scab over, and heal (like chickenpox). Healing is usually complete, but some people may be left with scars.

For some shingles can resolve in a matter of weeks, but for others, pain around the rash site can last for a month or more, and be severe enough to interfere with daily activities. Shingles on the face can also involve the eyes, which can lead to scarring and blindness.

Who needs to worry about shingles?  Like other diseases, shingles particularly impacts older people —2/3 of all shingles cases occur in adults over age 50. What’s more, up to 1 in 10 of those over 65 who get shingles end up in the hospital.

The good news is that there is a shingles vaccine available across Canada, with an efficacy rate of over 90%, which remains effective for at least 10 years. The bad news? Not all older Canadians can afford the vaccine.

According to a recent survey, over half of CARP members do not have private insurance that covers the cost of vaccines. What’s more, despite a strong recommendation from NACI issued in 2018, only some provincial/territorial governments fund the shingles vaccine for select age groups, and none fund the vaccine according to the full recommendation (all older Canadians age 50 and above).

Provincial and territorial governments are responsible for making decisions about public immunization programs. What this means is that affordable access to nationally recommended vaccines can depend on where seniors live.  CARP does not believe this is acceptable and is urging governments to ensure that seniors can access and afford vaccines for preventable diseases, like shingles. After all, isn’t this what universal healthcare is all about?

By doing so, the government would not only generate savings for a beleaguered healthcare system, but demonstrate that it values the wellbeing and health of its oldest citizens. In a recent survey, over 94% of CARP members told us they believe the government should fund all NACI-recommended vaccines for older Canadians.

Join CARP’s campaign in demanding that the government fund the shingles vaccine here, by sending a letter to your elected official with the click of a button.