When we hear the word “pandemic,” our minds immediately go to COVID-19. However, it’s important to remember that the world has faced other deadly viruses in the past, such as the Spanish Flu. Influenza, commonly known as the flu, continues to pose a significant threat even now. In fact, it is one of the top 10 causes of death in Canada, with an average of 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths every year. The good news is that we now have accessible and effective vaccines that can help prevent flu infections and save lives.
Seniors, aged 65 and older, are particularly vulnerable to the flu due to weakened immune systems. They not only have a higher risk of contracting the flu but also experience more severe health effects if they do. Studies estimate that seniors who get the flu are six times more likely to have a heart attack in the following week. Furthermore, a quarter of those hospitalized with the flu may never regain their pre-flu health, and more than one in eight may lose the ability to live independently.
However, seniors also have a lower immune response to vaccination, making it crucial to provide them with vaccines that offer broader immunity. In Canada, there are two safe and effective enhanced influenza vaccines (EIVs) available: adjuvanted and high-dose vaccines. Both of these options provide additional protection for older patients compared to standard flu vaccines. It is important to note that no evidence suggests that one type of EIV is superior to the other.
Canadian experts, in line with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice (ACIP), recommend that individuals aged 65 and older should receive an EIV. However, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is currently conducting a systematic review of flu-related data for this age group to provide further guidance to healthcare providers. This review will help determine the standard of care required to protect at-risk populations.
This review will likely recommend the use of any available EIV for Canadians over the age of 65, similar to the recommendation in the United States. Since no EIV has demonstrated superiority over another, provinces will have the flexibility to select the vaccine based on other factors, such as budgets and affordability. It is important to consider these factors, as some EIVs are significantly more expensive without providing significantly higher levels of protection.
To improve vaccination rates among seniors, it is essential to simplify the vaccination process. This includes offering the co-administration of the flu vaccine and a COVID booster, a practice deemed safe and effective by NACI. By streamlining vaccine policies and programs, we can save lives and alleviate the strain on healthcare budgets during respiratory virus seasons. Fortunately, there are enough flu vaccines available for everyone in Canada who wishes to be vaccinated.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
1. Why are seniors more susceptible to the flu?
Seniors have weakened immune systems, making them more susceptible to flu infections. Their bodies may struggle to fight off the virus, leading to more severe health effects.
2. What are enhanced influenza vaccines (EIVs)?
EIVs are vaccines that provide additional protection for older individuals compared to standard flu vaccines. They are specifically designed to offer broader immune responses in seniors.
3. How can EIVs help seniors?
EIVs can help protect seniors from the flu and reduce the risk of severe health effects, including heart attacks. By boosting immunity, these vaccines can potentially save lives and improve the overall well-being of older adults.
4. Are all EIVs equally effective?
No evidence exists to suggest that one type of EIV is superior to the other. Both adjuvanted and high-dose EIVs in Canada have been deemed safe and effective for older patients.
5. What is the role of healthcare providers in recommending EIVs?
Healthcare providers play a vital role in recommending the appropriate vaccine to seniors. They consider various factors, such as patient health, budgets, and vaccine affordability, to make informed decisions.
6. How can we simplify the flu vaccination process for seniors?
Streamlining the vaccination process involves offering the co-administration of the flu vaccine and a COVID booster, making it more convenient for seniors to receive both shots at once.
7. Are flu vaccines readily available for seniors in Canada?
Yes, there are enough flu vaccines available for all individuals in Canada aged 65 and older who wish to be vaccinated against the flu.