Each year, more than 42,000 people in the province develop shingles, a painful infection caused by the reactivated varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox.
Ontario is the first province in Canada to cover the cost of the shingles vaccine for eligible seniors. The chances of developing shingles are greatly reduced by the vaccine, which also protects against any complications.
People with shingles often experience pain, tingling, or itching and then a painful rash. This rash can last for a month or more and is often severe enough to interfere with daily activities. For some, complications from the virus lead to worse health problems such as loss of vision and prolonged nerve pain.
Approximately 850,000 Ontario seniors aged 65 to 70, who are particularly susceptible to getting shingles, are eligible for the free vaccine. To ensure that individuals close to the upper age eligibility cut-off have sufficient time to get vaccinated, during the 2016 year anyone who turns 71 (was born in 1945) is also eligible.
Eligible seniors can save about $170 while reducing visits to the emergency room and stays in hospitals. Eligible seniors can get the free vaccine from their primary care providers.
“Vaccinations are one of the most effective public health interventions for promoting and maintaining good health,” explains Dr. Eric Hoskins, minister of health. “Making the shingles vaccine free of charge for seniors is another way the Ontario government is working to transform the province's immunization system to improve the health of Ontarians and protect the most vulnerable.”