Protecting Seniors: The New High-Dose Influenza Vaccine for Nova Scotians Over 65, Op-ed
NOTE: The following is an op-ed from Dr. Ryan Sommers, Senior Regional Medical Officer of Health and Senior Medical Director Public Health, Nova Scotia Health.
The leaves are falling, and with the changing seasons comes the unwelcome return of the influenza virus, along with other seasonal respiratory viruses. While influenza can impact people of all ages, it poses a higher risk for older adults.
Fortunately, Nova Scotia has taken a proactive step to ensure the safety of this vulnerable group by expanding access to free high-dose influenza vaccines for all people aged 65 and over. This measure will help protect our communities and keep our seniors healthy during the influenza season.
It is important to remember that influenza can be a dangerous respiratory illness that can severely impact someone’s health. Seniors are particularly vulnerable to influenza and its complications due to age-related changes in their immune systems. While the standard influenza vaccine provides great protection for people under 65, seniors require a higher dose to create the same protection. The good news is that the high-dose influenza vaccine can help provide better protection against the virus for seniors than traditional vaccines.
The high-dose influenza vaccine is four times stronger than the standard-dose vaccine and significantly lowers seniors’ risk of contracting influenza and experiencing severe illness. Researchers have found that the high-dose vaccine is also generally better at preventing hospitalizations among seniors.
The availability of the high-dose influenza vaccine is part of Nova Scotia's broader public health strategy to minimize the impact of seasonal influenza on our healthcare system. By reducing influenza-related hospitalizations and complications among seniors, this program will help reduce the pressure on our primary and acute care health systems.
The vaccine is available through primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, public health vaccine clinics and pharmacies throughout the province. It's also safe to receive the high-dose influenza vaccine at the same time as the fall/winter COVID-19 vaccine.
During this time of year when respiratory illnesses like influenza are more common, taking steps to protect yourself and others is essential. In addition to receiving both influenza and COVID-19 vaccines, this includes proper hand washing and coughing into your sleeve. If you feel sick, staying home and wearing a mask is important to prevent others from getting sick. If your symptoms are not improving or get worse, you should call 811 or visit a family physician or nurse practitioner for further advice.
For more information about influenza and to book a vaccination appointment, visit https://novascotia.ca/flu . To find COVID-19 information and to book an appointment, visit https://www.nshealth.ca/coronavirus .