Sudbury

Sudbury researcher pushes seniors to get vaccinated

A Sudbury doctor says seniors are putting themselves at a higher risk of losing their independence by not getting vaccinated.
Dr. Janet McElhaney is the vice president of research and scientific director of the Health Sciences North Research Institute. (Submitted by HSN)

A Sudbury doctor says seniors are putting themselves at a higher risk of losing their independence by not getting vaccinated.

Dr. Janet McElhaney, the vice president of research and the scientific director of the Health Sciences North Research Institute, says it's important to keep getting vaccinated.

She notes that there's hesitancy because of the anti-vaccination movement.

"We've lost sight of what we've accomplished in terms of health of people in general," she said.

"We tend to move towards the things that get media attention."

McElhaney says many illnesses, including influenza, can be prevented by getting vaccinated. She says it's especially important for seniors to keep getting shots to avoid long-term problems.

"What we're really trying to prevent is disability related to these diseases," she said.

"If you look at older people's worst fears of when they're getting older is becoming dependent on others for their care and having to live in a nursing home. The more dependent you become, the less able you are to be able to respond to the next acute health stressor."

She says a visit to the hospital for the flu can end up escalating.

"Fifteen per cent of older people admitted to hospital with an influenza illness will suffer what's called a catastrophic disability," she said.

"They lose independence in more than two of their basic self-care activities, like bathing or getting around."

McElhaney says many people rely on getting information online. However, she stresses the importance of having those conversations with your family health care provider before making a decision.

"If a parent takes the position that their children don't need vaccines, what do you think their advice to their parents is going to be?" she said.

"It's really about the culture that we live in and who older people are going to listen to."

Vaccines can save lives. They can also prevent seniors from ending up in hospital and developing disabilities as a result of illnesses like the flu. We hear from a Sudbury geriatrician about the importance of seniors getting vaccinated. 8:31

With files from Waubgeshig Rice

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