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Ontario Making Shingles Vaccine Free for Seniors


First-in-Canada Program Will Save Seniors Money and Support Healthy Aging

September 15, 2016 1:00 P.M.


Ontario is the first jurisdiction in Canada to provide the shingles vaccine free of charge, saving eligible seniors approximately $170 and helping them stay healthy.

Starting today, the shingles vaccine will be available across the province for people 65 to 70 years of age. The government is investing $68 million over three years in order to publicly fund the vaccine, which will reduce the likelihood of Ontario seniors developing the painful infection, and reduce visits to emergency rooms and hospitals.

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, affects more than 42,000 people every year in Ontario and can cause complications such as loss of vision and debilitating nerve pain. Studies show that the vaccine is highly effective when seniors are vaccinated between the ages of 65 – 70, and this new program aligns with scientific and expert recommendations from Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization and Ontario’s Provincial Infectious Diseases Advisory Committee on Immunization.

Those who are eligible for the shingles vaccine should contact their primary care doctor or nurse practitioner to receive the vaccination.

Expanding Ontario’s publicly funded immunization program to help seniors stay healthy is part of the government’s plan to build a better Ontario through its Patients First: Action Plan for Health Care, which is providing patients with faster access to the right care, better home and community care, the information they need to stay healthy and a health care system that’s sustainable for generations to come.



” Vaccinations are one of the most effective public health interventions for promoting and maintaining good health. Making the shingles vaccine available free of charge for eligible seniors is another way our government is investing in the health and well-being of Ontario’s seniors. This expansion is part of our government’s plan to transform the province’s immunization system under Immunization 2020—our five-year plan to improve the health of Ontarians and protect our most vulnerable.” – Dr. Eric Hoskins Minister of Health and Long-Term Care

” By offering the shingles vaccine to seniors 65 to 70 years of age, the government is making another important investment in the health care system to better support seniors so they can lead a healthy, engaged and active lifestyle for as long as possible. It is another example of how we are making Ontario the healthiest place in North America to grow up and grow old.” – Dipika Damerla Minister Responsible for Seniors Affairs

” Shingles is a painful illness caused by the chickenpox virus that can reactivate without warning later in life. The shingles vaccine lowers the risk of getting shingles significantly and reduces the chance of complications from this disease for people without medical contraindications. By including the shingles vaccine in Ontario’s publicly funded immunization program, Ontario will help protect those adults 65 to 70 years of age who are highly susceptible to contracting this disease.” – Dr. David Williams Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health



  • Approximately 850,000 seniors between the ages of 65 and 70 years will be eligible to receive the publicly funded shingles vaccine.
  • During the 2016 year only, any Ontarian who was born in 1945 can receive the vaccine up to December 31, 2016 to ensure that individuals close to the upper age eligibility cut-off have sufficient time to get vaccinated.
  • Ontario is the only jurisdiction in Canada to date that is introducing the shingles vaccine as part of its publicly funded immunization program.
  • Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Shingles creates painful skin rashes with blisters, usually on one side of the body, often in a strip. The best protection from shingles is immunization.
  • The most frequent complication of shingles is post-herpetic neuralgia which is prolonged and often debilitating pain.
  • Ontario’s health care budget has increased from $47.6 billion in 2012-13 to a total of $51.8 billion in 2016-17.
  • This year’s $51.8 billion investment in health care is a 2.1 per cent increase over last year – greater than the rate of inflation.



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