Shingles Vaccine Free for Ontario Seniors

Ontario is the first Canadian province to provide free shingles vaccines to seniors, saving each eligible Ontarian approximately $170, while helping them maintain their good health.

On Thursday, September 15th, Health Minister Eric Hoskins announced that the Ontario government is making the vaccine available to all Ontario seniors, between the ages of 65 and 75 years of age. The province is investing $68 million over a thirty-six-month period to publicly fund the vaccine. The province is working to reduce the likelihood of the nearly 850,000 older adults in the province coming down with the painful condition.

What is Shingles

Generally speaking, shingles – or herpes zoster –  is an acute, very painful nerve inflammation that causes a rash, often accompanied by blisters, typically on one side of the body. Shingles occur when the chickenpox virus, currently lying dormant in a patient’s spinal nerve root, is reactivated.

Minister Hoskins, who is also a medical doctor, described shingles as “chickenpox, part two,” adding “it comes back, and it’s much worse.”

Currently, the condition affects 42,000 Ontarians annually and can cause complications such as prolonged, debilitating nerve pain and loss of vision. The best-known protection from shingles is vaccination.


Recent studies have found the vaccine to be “highly effective” in the prevention of shingles when vaccinations are administered to patients between 65 and 70 years of age. The vaccine also aligns with the province’s Infectious Diseases Advisory Committee recommendations and Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization guidelines.

How To Get The Vaccine

If you’re an Ontario resident between the ages of 65 and 70, contact your physician or nurse practitioner to book your vaccination. Since vaccines become less effective as patients age, residents are encouraged to get the vaccine as soon as possible, to help build up their immunity.

Residents born in 1945, (i.e. those who will be turning 71 this year, or who are already 71 years of age) are still eligible to receive the vaccine until December 31, 2016.

Seniors in Ontario are encouraged to discuss any concerns they may have about getting the vaccine with their primary healthcare provider. The ServiceOntario INFOline (1-866-532-3161, toll-free) can also provide additional information.

The publicly funded vaccination is part of the provincial government’s Patient’s First: Action Plan for Health Care, which is aimed at providing Ontario residents faster access to the information they need to maintain their health, in addition to better home & community care.

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