Herd Immunity: Be Part of the Solution

Know where to go for your vaccinations

By Vaccines411.ca

Getting vaccinated protects you and those you care about.

Older and wiser! That old aphorism is repeated throughout our adult lives for good reason. Experience really is the best teacher, and sharing those experiences with younger generations can help lead by example. Staying up to date with your vaccinations is a great way to model healthy behaviour.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link — and that rings true for herd immunity. Remember the measles outbreak of 2014 that started in Disneyland, or the 159 cases that followed in 2015 in Quebec, affecting mostly unvaccinated individuals?1 Such infectious illness outbreaks might be avoided if the majority of people are immunized.

Herd immunity is about creating a protective bubble of immunity around your circle of family and friends — so encourage every member of the “herd” to update their vaccinations. As a senior, being immunized can help you avoid spreading infectious illnesses to the grandbabies and young children in your family — not to mention your friends who may not be well enough to have a vaccination.2

Do you have a friend or relative in long-term care? Then you know how upsetting it can be when their residence goes into “lock down” mode due to a flu or other infectious disease outbreak — no visitors (aside from immediate family) allowed.

That’s where your immune status is a gift in itself. Staying healthy and free of flu or other transmissible ailments like pneumonia allows you to visit those who matter to you without the worry of passing along an infectious illness.2

The yearly influenza vaccine is recommended for everyone age six months and older who does not have contraindications to the vaccine. At the same time, anyone at risk for pneumococcal disease can be immunized against it,3 a disease which causes ear and sinus infections and pneumonia, and is more likely to be serious in older people and young children.4 One dose of PNEU-P-23 vaccine is recommended for all adults 65 years of age and older, regardless of risk factors or previous pneumococcal vaccination.5

Seniors tend to be at greater risk for infection due to having a suppressed immune system or chronic medical conditions. That’s why people over age 65 are also at risk of more serious consequences if they catch the flu – in fact, seniors account for over 50-70 per cent of hospitalizations and up to 85 per cent of deaths related to influenza. Luckily, there are now enhanced influenza vaccines especially developed to be effective in protecting seniors from the flu.6

Those over 50 years of age who have had chicken pox have an increasing risk of developing shingles, which affects one in three individuals in their lifetime when the varicella zoster virus that causes chickenpox is reactivated.7 As our immune defenses weaken with age, resistance to the latent chicken pox virus wanes, increasing shingles rates to one in two in people by age 85.

Two shingles vaccines are available for immunization of anyone over age 50 who had, or may have had chickenpox. And because shingles can occur more than once, those who have had shingles can also be vaccinated or revaccinated.8

Talk to your doctor and find out which vaccinations you need to keep you healthy and make your contribution to your community’s herd immunity.

To find the vaccinating clinic closest to you along with reliable immunization information, visit Vaccines411.ca.


  1. Measles Outbreak Traced to Disneyland is Declared Over. Feb 23, 2015.
  2. How does herd immunity work? Script from the animation by the Vaccine Knowledge Project, Oxford Vaccine Group, University of Oxford
  3. Quebec Immunization Schedule
  4. Pneumococcal disease. Ontario.ca
  5. Update on the use of pneumococcal vaccines in adults 65 years of age and older – A Public Health Perspective. An Advisory Committee Statement (ACS) National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI)
  6. NFID 2016
  7. GSK Shingles Vaccine Shingrix Gets First Okay in Canada. Medscape. Oct 13 2017
  8. An Advisory Committee Statement (ACS) National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) † Update on the Use of Herpes Zoster Vaccine. January 2014


Winter 2020, Vol 12 N°1

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