A Northern Ontario MPP wants the provincial government to be more generous in paying for the shingles vaccines and to provide better coverage for the RSV vaccine.
Thunder Bay Superior North MPP Lise Vaugeois, who is the NDP Official Opposition Seniors Critic, said the Conservative government needs to open the qualifications for those who need the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) vaccine.
Vaccine eligibility is limited, said the Ministry of Health.
"Through the high-risk older adult RSV vaccine program, adults aged 60 years and older residing in long-term care homes, Elder Care Lodges, and some retirement homes may be eligible for the vaccine used to prevent a serious lower respiratory tract infection caused by the virus. If adults aged 60 years and older don’t qualify for the free RSV vaccine, they can still purchase the vaccine with a prescription from their family doctor or other primary care provider," said the Ontario government website.
Vaugeois has also called on the government to end what she said is the discriminatory practice that denies OHIP coverage for the shingles vaccine (Shingrix) for anyone over 70 years old.
"Since immunization services have been impacted over the past year as a result of physical distancing and other public health measures in response to the COVID‑19 pandemic, individuals born from 1949 to 1952 who missed the opportunity to receive the publicly funded shingles vaccine are eligible to receive Shingrix® and complete the 2-dose series by December 31, 2023.
“If you don’t qualify for the free shingles vaccine, you can still get vaccinated with a prescription from your family doctor or other primary care provider. But you have to pay for it yourself," said the Ontario government website.
Vaugeois said the system needs to serve a larger segment of the population because many people cannot afford the cost, which is several hundred dollars.
"My mother, who turns 96 today, and had not been offered a vaccine, suffered from a severe case of shingles a year ago, and the pain persists to this day," stated Vaugeois.
"Seniors in Thunder Bay can't afford the Shingrix vaccine. OHIP only covers seniors between 65 and 70 for the vaccine, but anyone older than seventy must pay $300 or more to get the vaccine. And despite representing more than 80 per cent of RSV-related deaths, only those 60 and over in long-term care facilities, and some retirement homes, are covered by OHIP for the RSV vaccine.
"Seniors in Thunder Bay-Superior North and the neighbouring riding of Thunder Bay-Atikokan are telling me they can't afford the RSV vaccine, leaving them without vital protection. It's a calculated restriction by the Ministry of Health that puts older adults at unnecessary risk,” said Vaugeois.
"What kind of world are we living in where age determines the value of someone's health? Ford's Conservatives are sending a clear message: if you're over 70, or you live in your own home, your health is a luxury you must pay for.”