Thousands of Nova Scotians living in long-term care facilities will have access to a new flu vaccine this fall, which will provide greater protection for seniors and is expected to reduce hospital stays.
The high-dose vaccine is formulated specifically for elderly adults with chronic, complex health conditions. It is four times the strength of the standard vaccine and helps boost immune response. It is significantly more effective than the standard vaccine for the frail elderly.
“Nova Scotians living in long-term care facilities have the highest rates of severe illness and hospitalizations from influenza,” said Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey. “By making the high-dose flu vaccine available in our long-term care facilities this year, we’re helping protect those most at risk.”
Government will purchase more than 7,000 doses of the vaccine for adults living in long-term and residential care facilities across Nova Scotia. Evidence suggests immunizing all long-term care residents with the vaccine could result in about 100 fewer hospital stays.
Adults 65 and older represent only 15 per cent of the Canadian population, but experience 67 per cent of influenza-related complications and 88 per cent of influenza-related deaths. The H3N2 strain, which is currently the predominant circulating Influenza A strain in Canada, produces particularly severe illness in the elderly.
“Because the immune system declines as we age, older adults are more susceptible to influenza even when they are vaccinated – and this is especially true of individuals in long-term care,” said Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health. “For the general population, the standard vaccine provides adequate protection against the flu. But evidence shows that for elderly people with multiple chronic conditions, the high-dose vaccine yields better protection and fewer complications from the flu.”
Vaccines for the upcoming flu season will be available in the fall. The standard flu vaccine is available to all Nova Scotians free of charge through their care providers, community pharmacies and public health and employer clinics.