High-dose flu vaccine coming for seniors in care this fall

7,000 High-dose flu vaccine will be coming for seniors in care this fall.

Nova Scotia says new vaccine stronger, more effective than current version

The H3N2 strain, the predominant Influenza A strain circulating in Canada this season, produces particularly severe illness in the elderly, said the province. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

A new high-dose flu vaccine is coming for seniors ahead of the next flu season. 

The province announced Thursday it will buy 7,000 doses of the specially formulated vaccine to be provided to people living in long-term and residential care facilities across Nova Scotia.

It will be available this fall.

The province said the new vaccine is four times the strength of the standard vaccine and is "significantly" more effective in protecting elderly people from influenza, including those with chronic conditions.

"We recognize the impact influenza has each year, particularly on our frail elderly and disproportionately in our nursing home environment," Health Minister Randy Delorey said.

Those living in long-term care facilities have the highest rates of severe illness and hospitalization due to the flu, according to the province, and research shows the high-dose vaccine would result in 100 fewer hospital stays.

Though adults 65 and older represent only 15 per cent of the Canadian population, they experience 67 per cent of influenza-related complications and 88 per cent of influenza-related deaths, according to the province.

Randy Delorey is Nova Scotia's health minister. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

The minister said research brought forward by the public health team spawned the decision to make the vaccine available to seniors in care.

It will cost the province about $250,000 to buy the 7,000 doses. When asked if the high-dose vaccine will be made available to other vulnerable populations, Delorey said "that work is ongoing".

"The hope is that we reduce the prevalence of flu in our population that's receiving this," he said. 

The H3N2 strain, the predominant Influenza A strain circulating in Canada this season, produces particularly severe illness in the elderly, said the province. 

"Because the immune system declines as we age, older adults are more susceptible to influenza even when they are vaccinated and this is especially true of individuals in long-term care," Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, said in the news release.

He said the high-dose vaccine also cuts down on complications for those who do catch the flu.

The standard vaccines are adequate for the general population, Strang said. The standard, updated flu vaccine will still be available for Nova Scotians this fall.

There were 50 people admitted to Nova Scotia's intensive care units during the 2017-18 influenza season — more than double the number at the same time last year, according to data from the province.

This season, 61 people who died also tested positive for influenza, although the province said it's unclear whether the flu was the primary cause of death. The number of flu-linked deaths around the same time last year was 26.