Home Sections Seniors BC United jumps on free shingles vaccine recommendation

BC United jumps on free shingles vaccine recommendation

BC Seniors Advocate recommends two free doses of the vaccine for seniors.

bc united, kevin falcon, dan levitt, bc seniors advocate
BC United Leader Kevin Falcon [June 8, 2024] | BC Seniors Advocate Dan Levitt [June 5, 2024]

Monday June 10, 2024 | VICTORIA, BC [Updated 5:25 pm]

Political analysis by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc. | Island Social Trends

Two doses of the shingles vaccine to prevent shingles (reactivation of the varicella zoster virus in nerve cells) is recommended by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, for Canadians age 50+.

That’s also a recommendation by the BC Seniors Advocate, as announced last week in his report Ageing Matters (as one of five recommendations to improve the lives of older residents; his other recommendations have to do with socioeconomics).

aging in place, aging matters
“Ageing Matter – What we heard from BC Seniors” – report issued June 5, 2024 by the BC Seniors Advocate.

BC Seniors Advocate Dan Levitt recommends that seniors in BC over age 50 should receive two doses of the vaccine at no cost.

BC Health Minister Adrian Dix has stated that he is considering the coverage of free shingles vaccine shots for seniors. The most common commercial name for the shingles vaccine is Shingrix.

bc seniors advocate, dan levitt
BC Seniors Advocate Dan Levitt issues his first report with recommendations, June 5, 2024 in Victoria. [livestream]

People over age 65 & immune system risk factors:

According to the BC Centre for Disease Control (BC CDC) on their shingles information page it is estimated that 15-28% of people will develop shingles at some point in their life. The distinctive rash is painful with blisters, usually limited to a small area on one side of the body.

Shingles happens when the same virus that causes chickenpox (i.e. varicella zoster virus) is reactivated in nerve cells.

shingles, rash
Shingles presents with a rash. [BC Centre for Disease Conrol]

More people have been getting shingles in recent years, says BC CDC on their website. “People over the age of 65 are more likely to get shingles,” says BC CDC.

The Shingrix manufacturer’s website says that risk factors for a shingles flare-up (when the virus is already present) include diseases that weaken a person’s immune system, immunosuppression associated with conditions such as HIV/AIDS and cancer, and immunosuppressive therapies (e.g. radiation, chemotherapy, transplant-related immunosuppressive medications, and steroids).

shingles, symptoms, bc cdc
Symptoms of shingles [BC Centre for Disease Control]

Politics in the mix:

The BC United Party (which has been sitting in opposition to the BC NDP government during the last four years in the BC Legislative Assembly) has picked up that one recommendation and run with it. They are clearly targeting the senior voter base; seniors are reliable voter group.

BC United posted in social media a few days ago: “BC United will provide free shingles vaccines – saving your $160 per dose”. That wording uses what is often done in politics… making it sound like they have the authority to do it. They would need to have a majority of seats in the Legislative Assembly in order to guarantee that promise, but low-information voters might not realize the distinction.

As well, that wording leaves it open to perhaps ultimately cover the cost of only one dose (though BC United has confirmed to Island Social Trends later today that the idea is to cover both shots).

bc united, shingles vaccine
BC United announced that they “will” eliminate the cost of the shingles vaccine for seniors, in social media on June 8, 2024. [X]

“BC United’s initiative aligns with proposals from Dan Levitt, the new B.C. Seniors Advocate, as well as recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) as vital way to address a significant health risk,” says BC United in their June 8 news release.

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Last week — as part of Seniors Week — there was a Seniors Expo in White Rock in the Lower Mainland, where BC United Leader Kevin Falcon and BC Seniors Advocate Dan Levitt both happened to have delivered remarks.

They delivered entirely separate remarks at different times, but some weekend TV news coverage gave the impression that BC Seniors Advocate Dan Levitt was perhaps there in support of the BC United.

“It was the perfect venue to announce @voteBCUnited’s plan to provide free shingles vaccines to British Columbians,” said Falcon in social media on June 8.

kevin falcon, trevor halford, surrey, seniors expo
BC United Leader spoke at the Seniors Expo hosted by MLA & incumbent Trevor Halford (Surrey-White Rock), on June 8, 2024. [X]

BC Seniors Advocate is non-partisan:

They both spoke about the shingles vaccine (among other things) but the Office of the Seniors Advocate (OSA) is a non-partisan independent office of the Ministry of Health.

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“The Seniors Advocate is not campaigning in any way with the BC United party,” the OSA confirmed in an email today.

“Members of BC United and the Seniors Advocate happened to be attending the same seniors expo during Seniors Week, which may have contributed to the misapprehension,” the OSA stated today.

“The seniors expo was not a political event,” said a representative from Dan Levitt’s office today.

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Health news & political analysis by Island Social Trends.

===== RELATED:

What did you do for Seniors Week 2024? (June 7, 2024)

BC Seniors advocate sets directions about aging (June 5, 2024)