Grace Price and her husband, a senior couple living in the Cowichan Valley, want to get vaccinated against shingles, as is recommended for healthy people above 50 years of age.
But when the Prices, who are on fixed incomes, discovered it would cost them up to $1,000 for the two shots each that are required, they realized that the vaccinations are well above their budget.
“Seniors like us are on tight budgets and we just can’t afford that kind of money to get vaccinated against shingles,” Grace said.
“The shots are free for seniors in Ontario, so why aren’t they free here as well? We’re encouraged to get shingle shots, but they’re too expensive for us to buy them.”
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Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a viral infection that causes a painful rash and, at its worst, can lead to blindness, facial paralysis, brain inflammation and chronic pain.
It is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, and it typically affects adults over the age of 50.
Grace said shingles are common in Canada (about one out of three people will get shingles in their lifetime, and Canada has approximately 130,000 new cases each year) and she and her husband are concerned they’ll catch the painful disease.
“I read about a woman in Calgary who had to spend 14 days in hospital after she got shingles and is still in pain from it four months later,” Grace said.
“She tried everything to deal with the pain, but nothing seemed to work. I can’t believe the government allows the price of the vaccinations to be so high when those who need them most can’t afford them.”
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A statement from the Ministry of Health said the government knows that shingles particularly affects the elderly and vulnerable members of the community, and if the pandemic has taught people anything, it is the importance of vaccines.
“That’s why in 2021 this government, through the First Nations Health Authority, began offering the Shingrix vaccination (at no cost) to First Nations Elders who are 65-years-old and older,” the statement said.
“Previously coverage was limited to those aged 65 to 69. To best support British Columbians, the Ministry is currently reviewing the possibility of expanding Shingrix eligibility to other populations.”