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Nova Scotia NDP calling for free high dose flu shots for seniors

Click to play video: 'Busier than usual respiratory illness season adds pressure to N.S. health system'
Busier than usual respiratory illness season adds pressure to N.S. health system
With sicknesses like COVID-19, influenza and RSV circulating around us in Nova Scotia, the respiratory illness season is off to a busier start than usual. While the majority of cases do not require hospitalization, those that do add to the pressure the overall system is facing amid growing staffing shortages. Callum Smith reports – Nov 15, 2022

Nova Scotia will not be making a high-dose influenza vaccine free to residents 65 and over, despite recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization that the shot be used for seniors when it is available.

While the standard flu vaccine is free for Nova Scotians, the higher-dose version costs more than $80 out of pocket.

During a media conference Thursday afternoon, chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said “there’s some evidence that the higher-dose flu vaccine is somewhat more effective.”

“But we know there’s a good match this year between what’s in the regular standard-dose vaccine and the circulating strain (of flu),” he added.

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The National Advisory Committee on Immunization says there is good evidence that a high-dose vaccine provides “better protection compared to (a standard dose) in adults 65 years of age and older.”

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Nova Scotia covers the cost of the high-dose shot for seniors living in long-term care facilities, because those individuals are the highest-risk age group living in the highest-risk environment, said a Health Department spokesperson.

The chief medical officer declined to say if he thought the high-dose option should be free for all Nova Scotians aged 65 and up, noting that the decision was up to government.

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Many other Canadian provinces, including New Brunswick, Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan, cover the high-dose shot.

Nova Scotia’s NDP is calling for the province to make a high-dose influenza vaccine free amid the current spike in flu and respiratory illness. NDP health spokesperson Susan Leblanc said in a statement the health-care system is already pushed to the brink due to circulating respiratory viruses, noting that the Public Health Agency of Canada has declared a flu epidemic.

Halifax children’s hospital IWK Health Centre and the QEII Health Sciences Centre have both reported overcrowding.

Leblanc said the province should protect older Nova Scotians and follow the lead of other provinces that have made the high-dose flu shot free for all seniors.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 17, 2022.

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