Aldergrove resident Robert Dyson received his COVID-19 immunization at Fraser Health’s immunization clinic in Langley. (Langley Advance Times files)

Aldergrove resident Robert Dyson received his COVID-19 immunization at Fraser Health’s immunization clinic in Langley. (Langley Advance Times files)

REMINDER: Don’t forget inoculations other than COVID

Vaccination coverage rate among seniors below national goal of 80 per cent

COVID-19 added one more vaccine to the list of recommended inoculations for seniors.

Health experts are reminding older residents to get immunized against other diseases, too.

“Keeping your immunizations up to date is a crucial part of remaining healthy as you age.”

These are the words one will encounter when they open Fraser Health Authority’s seniors immunization webpage.

Currently, Fraser Health recommends that seniors get vaccinated against flu (influenza), pneumococcal pneumonia, and shingles. While there are other immunizations – such as against measles – that all adults should be aware of, health experts say these three vaccinations are critical for seniors.

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In addition, adults who did not complete their vaccines as a child are at risk for infection and can also infect others. Unlike the flu vaccine, which is given every year and tailored to the most common strains, the pneumonia vaccine recommended for adults 65 plus is a one-dose shot. The vaccine becomes crucial for adults with medical or lifestyle risks and those living in residential care or assisted living facilities.

During the time when health care systems are running on capacity due to COVID cases, Dr. Matthew Chow of Doctors of B.C., said influenza shots become more important than ever.

“Getting the influenza shot protects you, protects your loved ones, and takes pressure off our health-care system at a critical time,” he explained.

The shingles vaccine, too, is recommended for older adults aged 50 plus and requires two jabs. It is recommended that seniors take two doses of Shingrix within a two to six month gap.

The vaccine provides protection against shingles, a painful rash illness which sometimes leads to long-term nerve pain. Since people can get shingles more than once, it is suggested that seniors get Shingrix even if they already had the disease before.

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While health care experts have established the importance of the vaccines, what concerns them is the low immunization rates among seniors.

A 2021 Government of Canada-supported study revealed that vaccine coverage for seniors 65 years of age and older is currently at 70 per cent, which is below the national vaccine coverage goal of 80 per cent.

Among adults aged 18 years and older who provided a reason for receiving the vaccine – 37 per cent were vaccinated because they wanted to prevent infection or avoid getting sick. It was also one of the most commonly cited reasons for receiving the influenza vaccine among high-risk groups, including seniors.

The same study also found that the most commonly provided reason for non-vaccination by seniors was concerns about vaccine safety.

British Columbia provides many vaccines free of charge to some people. For example, those with chronic illness or weakened immune systems may receive free vaccinations. Seniors can contact their health care provider or call 8-1-1 for more information about vaccines.

To book an immunization appointment with Fraser Health, Langley seniors can call 604-702-4906.

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