Influenza vaccine injection. (Black Press files)

B.C. seniors need better vaccine protection, advocate says

Home support down, day programs up in annual rating

Both seniors and those around them need better vaccination coverage, B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie says in her latest report on services for the province’s growing elderly population.

“We clearly have work to do in terms of increasing our vaccination rates among seniors, and among the public as well,” Mackenzie said Thursday. “The public health data are clear: vaccine efficacy diminishes with age. The best protection for frail and elderly seniors is not only the vaccination of seniors, but of the people around them.”

The annual Monitoring Seniors Services report comes as B.C. is in the midst of its annual influenza vaccine drive. Opposition politicians have called for the health ministry to make a stronger version of the vaccine available for seniors.

The B.C. Nurses Union and other health care unions have negotiated changes to the health ministry policy in place since 2012 that requires people in health care facilities to get the annual flu shot or wear a mask in seniors’ and other patient care areas.

In a statement Dec. 4, the BCNU announced the agreement that means “an end to the punitive nature of the previous policy and is consistent with the flu prevention efforts released by the Office of the Provincial Health Officer.

“BCNU will continue to work with the employer to encourage vaccination as a strategy to reduce flu transmission and promote the use of personal protective equipment when appropriate.”

RELATED: Too many seniors in care homes, or at home on drugs

RELATED: Home care declines as B.C. seniors’ population grows

Mackenzie has been urging the government to increase home support services to keep seniors from moving to residential care before they need it. The latest report finds that the number of home support clients has increased 1.7 per cent by this year, but that is due to a five per cent increase in short-term home support, while long-term home care has declined slightly.

The report notes “marked improvement” in access to adult day programs for seniors, with 10 per cent more clients and a slight decrease in the waitlist for day programs.

Mackenzie’s report also called for more reliable information on “the magnitude and root causes of elder abuse and neglect.” She announced a review of the current system with recommendations to come in 2020.

The ministry’s seniors’ abuse and information line received 4,372 calls during the 2018-19 year, of which 31 per cent were related to abuse.

B.C.’s senior population has grown, from 14 per cent of the provincial population in 2008 to 18 per cent in 2018.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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