Immunizations for Older Adults

Last revised: December 14, 2023

Vaccines are especially important for older adults. As you get older, your immune system weakens and it can be more difficult to fight off infections. You’re more likely to get diseases like the flu, pneumonia, and shingles — and to have complications that can lead to long-term illness, hospitalization, and even death.

It is safe and convenient to receive both the COVID-19 vaccine and flu vaccine at the same time, reducing the need for multiple visits. Please contact your local pharmacy, regular health care provider or Ottawa Public Health’s COVID-19 vaccine web page for vaccine appointment bookings.

Influenza

The flu is more likely to cause severe illness and even death in older adults.  For more information on the flu, what flu vaccines are available and where to get your vaccine visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca/flu.

COVID-19

COVID-19  is a viral infection that primarily affects the lungs. Older adults are at higher risk of severe illness and complication from COVID-19. Staying up-to-date with immunization continues to be the best way to protect yourself. For information about what COVID-19 vaccines are available and where to get your vaccine visit the COVID-19 vaccine web page

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

RSV is a major cause of lower respiratory illness, affecting the lungs and airways. Older adults, particularly those with existing health conditions, are at an increased risk of RSV-related hospitalization and mortality. In Ontario, most deaths from RSV have occurred in those aged 60 years and older. The Ontario Ministry of Health is currently publicly funding the High-Risk Older Adult RSV Vaccine Program for people 60 years and older who are:

  • Living in long-term care homes;
  • Living in Elder Care Lodges;
  • Residents of retirement homes licensed to provide dementia care;
  • Patients in hospital receiving alternate level of care (ALC;)
  • Patients receiving hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis; 
  • Recipients of solid organ or hematopoietic stem cell transplants; 
  • Individuals experiencing homelessness; and  
  • Individuals who identify as First Nations, Inuit or Métis. 

Ottawa Public Health is working directly with eligible long-term care homes and retirement homes in Ottawa, and our partners working with people who experience homelessness to facilitate administration of vaccines to people eligible in these settings.

Ottawa Public Health is also working with its hospital partners and partners working with First Nations, Inuit and Métis People to ensure they have adequate vaccine supply for their clients.

People who meet one of the criteria for the publicly funded High-Risk Older Adult RSV Vaccine Program are encouraged to check with the setting in which they are eligible (such as their hospital specialist or program, or retirement home) for information on how to get the vaccine.

People who do not meet one of the criteria for the publicly funded program, can find more information on how to privately purchase the RSV vaccine on the Ontario Ministry of Health webpage.

Looking for more information? Visit: Ontario Ministry of Health Respiratory Syncytial Virus Prevention Program

Routine Immunizations

Ask your regular health care provider about immunizations at your next visit.

To learn more about adult vaccines visit the Government of Ontario: Vaccines for adults’ website

Frequently Asked Questions

 I am not sure what vaccines I have had or what vaccines I might need.
 If you are unsure of your immunization status, there are many ways to check your vaccine history and to find out if you need vaccines.
  • Your regular healthcare provider is a great resource to check your vaccine history. They can review the vaccines they have on your patient file and recommend next steps to get your immunization status up to date.  
  • If you received vaccines in another province or country, the local health authority where you lived may be able to help you retrieve your immunization record. Visit the Provincial and territorial health resources for more information.
  • If you required vaccine information from an employer, and/or received vaccines in the workplace, your employer and/or occupational health department may be able to help you.
 I am travelling outside of Canada, are there vaccines I might need?
Due to the presence of vaccine preventable diseases in foreign countries, you should ensure your immunization status is up to date before travelling. Your regular health care provider or a specialized travel medicine clinic can help you in making sure you are safe to travel. It is recommended to schedule an appointment at least six weeks before your planned departure. Visit the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website for travel health notices and a list of travel clinics across Canada.
 I have no history of some (or any) of my vaccines. What are my options?
 Vaccines are safe for most adults and can be repeated without any increased risk of reactions. You can discuss vaccination options with a health care provider to ensure you are protected.   
 Where can I learn more about vaccines?
  • Interested in learning more about vaccines? Visit our Vaccines Work page.
  • If you would like to keep track of your immunizations, CANImmunize is a free digital tool for Canadians that securely stores your vaccination records and helps you get vaccinated on time.
  • The Canadian Immunization Guide from the Public Health Agency of Canada is a comprehensive resource on vaccine knowledge created by leading experts in immunization.

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