A national seniors’ rights groups says the NWT isn’t doing enough to promote vaccines for the elderly other than those for Covid-19.
In its second annual report on vaccine strategies across the country, CanAge awarded the NWT a letter grade of D for its strategy, the same score the territory received last year. Most notably, the NWT received an F for vaccine accessibility, particularly for its purported failure to promote or fund the shingles vaccine.
In a summary of the grade, the report acknowledges the challenges faced by the northern territories in making vaccines accessible, especially in remote communities.
“While all territories face additional challenges with providing health care to rural and remote communities, this is all the more reason to start making moves to fund required vaccines and distribute them as widely as possible,” the report reads. “The Northwest Territories should follow Yukon’s lead, and must expand coverage to remove financial barriers to uptake, enhance access points, and better communicate the benefits of immunization for adults – all tangible actions we recommended in 2021. Evidently, this year, the Government of Northwest Territories has instead chosen inaction.”
Each jurisdiction receives separate letter grades from CanAge for funding, accessibility and public awareness.
“It’s one thing to fund it, but if no one can get it, then it’s not very helpful,” CanAge president Laura Tamblyn Watts said of vaccine accessibility.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Services didn’t respond to a request for comment in time for publication. However, in a letter to CanAge’s director of policy and research, André Corriveau, the NWT’s deputy chief public health officer, said the GNWT wasn’t properly consulted on the report before it was published.
He also said the report doesn’t properly take into account widespread obstacles faced in the North.
“Logistics, infrastructure and the vast distance between communities are familiar challenges to those of us who deliver services in the North,” Corriveau wrote. “It is unfortunate that the CanAge report does not acknowledge those challenges.”
He also pointed out that the territory was docked points because pharmacists do not offer vaccines at pharmacies, despite the fact that this is illegal in the NWT.
“Further, many Northwest Territories communities do not have pharmacies,” he wrote.
He said the Shingrix shingles vaccine was recently added to a list of publicly-funded vaccines, specifically for those ages 65-70 and with certain comorbidities.
Tamblyn Watts said the report doesn’t address the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines because response to the pandemic is constantly evolving, and because other organizations are tracking the rollout. However, she saidjurisdictions all across the country can apply lessons from the Covid vaccine rollout to other vaccines.
“People want to get vaccinated, and if you make it easy for them to get vaccinated, they will,” she said.
The co-administration of vaccines can also be used to promote inoculation, she suggested.
“You could go and get your influenza vaccine, which is an annual one, and also get your, say pneumonia vaccine, which is one time, at the same time.”
The full report card is available on CanAge’s website.
To continue, I think it is a lame excuse to blame the cancelling of appointments on the pandemic.
I have had my first shingles vaccine but never was able to get the second one. The second dose was scheduled and rescheduled several times. Each and every time it was cancelled by public health with the only excuse being there was a pandemic going on. I did ask once who they gave my appointment to. The last time it was cancelled I just said forget it.
This is very interesting as the Yellowknife Seniors Society has these very same concerns. In fact, we have raised this several times with the Dept of Health and Social Services and are still waiting for replies.
Statistics show that 30% of the population over 50 will contract shingles and yet the coverage is only for those 65 to 70 .
Coverage for this expensive vaccination came into effect in January 2021 in the NWT and yet there has been little promotion or information forthcoming. Of particular concern are the seniors older than 70 who “missed the free vaccination window”. We are still waiting for a response from HSS as to why they were missed and what will be done for them.
We realize things are busy because of covid, however there is no excuse to not provide information about the importance of this vaccination to our most vulnerable population in the NWT.