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Nova Scotia receives “D” grade in CanAge’s vaccine report card

By Evan Taylor Sep 11, 2023 | 3:17 PM

Dr Partha Sarathi Sahana / CC

In CanAge’s recently released third annual Vaccine Report Card for the 2022-2023 period, Nova Scotia has received a grade of “D.” The report, issued by CanAge, Canada’s national seniors advocacy organization, underscores the need for improved vaccination strategies to safeguard the health of the province’s substantial senior population.

Nova Scotia has taken a step in the right direction by committing to fully fund senior-specific flu vaccines. However, details regarding the distribution plans for the upcoming flu season are pending. The province already boasts a robust distribution system for flu vaccines. Additionally, there are signs that pharmacies are stepping in to provide mobile vaccination programs to support those in the community with community-based care.

On the flip side, there is concerning news in the report. Despite longstanding advocacy by seniors, Nova Scotia has not made progress in providing coverage for best-in-class shingles vaccines, despite more than one in five Nova Scotians being aged 65 and above. CanAge CEO Laura Tamblyn Watts emphasized, “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, the report found no evidence of Nova Scotia updating its vaccine supply for pneumonia in line with the recommendations made by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) over six months ago. This is critical to enhance the protection of vulnerable seniors. Tamblyn Watts cautioned that, “The best-in-class pneumonia vaccinations are critical for vulnerable seniors, or any adult living in 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.” The report also highlighted the absence of guidance changes for the administration of the updated NACI-recommended pneumonia vaccines.

The state of Nova Scotia’s healthcare services, especially the closure of emergency rooms and hospitals, particularly in rural areas, continues to draw national attention. Investment in public health is seen as crucial to keeping Nova Scotians healthy and reducing preventable hospital admissions. Tamblyn Watts emphasized, “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 by trusted sources.”

The 2022-2023 Vaccine Report Card goes beyond just numbers and grades; it reflects the quality of life and health security for the nation’s seniors. Increased vaccinations are directly linked to improved well-being and reduced healthcare costs, yet governments are urged to take NACI-recommended vaccines more seriously.