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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Canada Wide Free Shingles Vaccines Needed![Editorial]

Ontario Government Free Seniors Shingles Vaccines Not Enough Impact!

Editorial Rant by Suzanne M. Sholer B.A. B.Ed.
This post contains my two cents on the Ontario government announcement of their funding free shingles vaccines for seniors age 65 to 70..
What do you think about this issue?
Be sure to add your voice to the discussion!
Shingles is a horribly painful condition to bear and  providing free shingles vaccines Canada-wide could measurably improve our economy. The Ontario government is now funding free shingles vaccines for some seniors, however to make a real impact on health and employment insurance costs, a Canada-wide shingles strategy is needed.
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So why does Canada need a nation-wide shingles prevention strategy?

Free Shingles Vaccine for Some Ontarians - Close But No Cigar!

The Ontario Government proudly announced they are generously funding Free Shingles Vaccine for Ontario Seniors, however the fine print reads - age 65 to 70.
While, free shingles vaccines for some seniors is a step in the right direction, personally, I believe a national health shingles prevention strategy would save our government thousands of dollars IF the age range for the free vaccines were expanded, and an income test be applied.

Shingles Attacks People In the Work Force

First of all, The Public Health Agency of Canada recognizes people can get shingles at almost any age, and recommends the varicella vaccine for anyone over the age of 60, or even younger, if they have certain high risk factors.
Although any person who has had chickenpox can get shingles, most people who do so are older than 50 or have a weakened immune system. For example, a person might be susceptible if they have cancer, take medicines that weaken their immune system, or have HIV or AIDS, even if they are younger than 50.  The best protection from shingles is vaccination. People can still get shingles after receiving the varicella vaccine but they are 4 to 12 times less likely to do so than if they haven’t been immunized.
 The vaccine is recommended for most people 60 and older. 
Some people should not receive the vaccine; for example, those with certain allergies or who are taking certain medications. A health professional can advise who should not be vaccinated due to contraindications to the vaccine. People between 50 and 59 years can request the vaccine from their health professional. Source - Public Health Agency of Canada Fact Sheet: Infectious Diseases - Herpes Zoster January 17, 2017.
Do you know anyone who has had shingles before the age of 60?
I do. My sister had shingles before she was 50 and could not bear to have anything touching her skin for months.

Some unfortunate people get shingles repeatedly for the rest of their lives.
Not making free vaccines available  to people age 50 and up, or younger if certain high risk health conditions exist is short sighted.

Shingles Vaccine Cost Versus Sickness Benefits and CPP Payments

While a minor case of shingles can be expected to last some people get recurring bouts of shingles that can leave them debilitated for life.
Do you know how much it can cost the government in Unemployment Insurance sick benefits alone? Add to that the disruption of the workplace and retraining needed for a replacement employee, plus the family stresses that cause reactionary illness in family members.Then, if the person does not recover...
Well, you get the picture.
The Wynne government is releasing out a few meager drops of funding for healthcare where greater expenditure could actually SAVE us money.
It is time to stop blowing thousands on in vitro fertilization programs that inadvertently cause more stress on our health care budget when those children grow up.
Time to look at needs versus wants.
Not preventing shingles is irresponsible.
We NEED to reduce healthcare costs - not increase them.
Yes, I do have empathy for people who long to have a baby and are willing to go through invasive and sometimes painful treatments to have a child. However, letting people get such a horrific disease and not be able to function as productive members of society borders on criminal.
Oh, and why the income test?
If you have zillions stashed in the bank - you do not need a free anything. Put on your adult shoes and pay for your own shot!
Know someone turning 65 soon?
Be sure to share this post with them
This post was adapted from the Province of Ontario December 2016 press release.

 Shingles Vaccine Now Free for [Some] Ontario Seniors

 Provincial Program Helps Save Seniors Money and Stay Healthy 
 Ontario is reminding seniors who are turning 65 in 2017 that, in 2017 they will be eligible to get the shingles vaccine free of charge, saving them approximately $170 and helping them stay healthy. Seniors aged 65 to 70 can get the vaccine from their doctor or nurse practitioner. The vaccine greatly reduces the risk of developing shingles.
So why is the province funding free shingles vaccine for some seniors?
 "Shingles can flare up later in life, most often when a person’s immune system is weakened due to age or as a result of other health problems." explained Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care.
Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, affects more than 42,000 people every year in Ontario. People with shingles often experience pain, tingling, or itching and then a painful rash. This rash can last for a month or more and is often severe enough to interfere with daily activities. For some, complications from the virus can lead to serious health problems such as loss of vision and prolonged nerve pain.
How does the shingles vaccine help?
 "The shingles vaccine lowers the risk of getting shingles significantly and thus reduces the chance of complications from this disease for people without medical contraindications. Eligible seniors are encouraged to get the free vaccine." explained Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.
Expanding Ontario's publicly funded immunization program to help seniors stay healthy is part of the government's plan to build a better Ontario through its Patients First: Action Plan for Health Care, which is providing patients with faster access to the right care, better home and community care, the information they need to stay healthy and a health care system that's sustainable for generations to come.
Did you know:

  • Ontario is the only jurisdiction in Canada that provides the shingles vaccine free of charge. 
  • Approximately 850,000 seniors between the ages of 65 and 70 are eligible to receive the publicly funded shingles vaccine. 
  • Approximately 200,000 doses of the publicly funded shingles vaccine have been distributed throughout Ontario since the program launched in September. 
  • The shingles vaccine is also available in participating pharmacies. Patients who choose to receive the vaccine from a pharmacist will need a prescription from their primary care provider and will have to pay the pharmacy a fee for the vaccine. 
  • Studies show that the vaccine is highly effective when seniors are vaccinated between the ages of 65 to 70. The program aligns with scientific and expert recommendations from Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization and Ontario’s Provincial Infectious Diseases Advisory Committee on Immunization. 
  • Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox.    
Want more information about the free Shingles vaccine for seniors?
For public inquiries call ServiceOntario, INFOline (Toll-free in Ontario only) 1-866-532-3161

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