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This article was published 5/9/2017 (1177 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
In a move the government hopes will improve care and curtail costs, Manitoba will begin offering seniors living in personal care homes a new, high-dose influenza vaccine.
Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said he believes the province is the first across Canada to offer Fluzone High-Dose, which was approved by Health Canada a year ago but has been in use in the United States for some time.
"This higher level of protection against the kinds of strains of flu that we expect this year will be important," Goertzen said during the Tuesday announcement at Concordia Place Personal Care Home.
"We look forward to measuring the outcomes and seeing the successes that come."
There are approximately 9,000 Manitoba seniors who will qualify for the vaccine, according to Dr. Tim Hilderman, a public health physician and vaccine specialist with Manitoba Health, and they make up a particularly vulnerable segment of the population.
"We’ve known for a long-time that those residents of long-term care facilities are at particularly high risk of severe influenza-related illnesses and diseases," Hilderman said, "producing hospitalizations, complications, and, as well, maybe death in some circumstances."
Across the province, many people over the age of 65 who live in personal care homes require hospital admittance to treat lower respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis. The rate at which they require hospitalization increases during flu season.
Hilderman’s hoping Fluzone will improve seniors’ health and, by extension, help lower those rates.
The vaccine has quadruple the antigen of a regular flu shot, meaning it can be more effective at fighting influenza A and influenza B in older populations whose bodies typically no longer respond as well to the regular vaccine.
"A number of different strategies have been used in the past and are currently being used to try to overcome that," he said. "The high-dose flu vaccine is one of those things which we feel will help."
Manitoba spends upwards of $6 million each year on flu season, everything from the vaccine itself to educational materials and marketing campaigns. It’s unclear exactly how much Fluzone will add to the cost. A spokeswoman for Manitoba Health said information on the price of each individual dose is proprietary information.
There are a few reasons the rollout is starting in personal care homes, Hilderman said, chief among them being the fact that vaccine uptake is quite high in the facilities, hovering around 90 per cent. That’s significantly higher than rates for seniors out in the community, which are typically somewhere between 55 and 65 per cent.
"We’d love it to be close to 90 but its not," he said, "so in terms of getting the vaccine initially into the highest risk population that’s basically the rationale."
The government will be closing monitoring the vaccine’s impact.
"If we can find ways where it’s both effective for outcomes for individuals who are using it and cost effective," Goertzen said, "then we’d certainly like to continue it in this particularly category and look at expansion if there’s a case to be made."