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Towards Community Immunity: Ontario Lung Association Applauds Move to Strengthen Provincial Vaccination Program

Dec 11, 2015

Toronto, ON – The Ontario Lung Association today strongly endorsed the Ontario Government’s plan to strengthen the province’s immunization program.

“Immunization prevents infection and saves lives,” said Ontario Lung Association president and CEO George Habib. “Government action to bolster immunization programs sends a clear message to Ontarians that vaccines are safe and effective and that every Ontarian should participate in this important public health campaign.”

The Immunization 2020 strategy, announced yesterday by the Minister for Health and Long-Term Care, Eric Hoskins, includes public education campaigns on the importance of immunization so that people can make informed decisions based on facts and scientific evidence.

Habib said this would complement long-running Ontario Lung Association campaigns promoting the benefits of vaccination against the flu and pneumonia.

“Almost everyone should get the flu shot,” said Carole Madeley, director of respiratory health programs with the Ontario Lung Association. “It not only helps to protect you from being infected with the flu virus, it also reduces the risk to people around you – family, friends and people in your community

“This is called ‘community immunity’. It means that the more people who get the flu shot in a community the less risk to others, particularly vulnerable groups such as the elderly, young children, pregnant women and the 2.4 million Ontarians with a chronic lung disease such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).”

Adults 65 years of age and older, particularly those living with a lung disease such as (COPD) are also at increased risk for complications due to flu. Pneumococcal infection is the most common complication of both seasonal and pandemic influenza.

Pneumococcal bacteria enter the body through the nose or mouth. Some people will not develop symptoms, but others may develop serious complications, including ear infection, pneumonia, or meningitis that can lead to hospitalization. Discuss vaccination with your health-care provider.

“The flu can be serious for anyone, especially the very young, the very old, or those with compromised immune systems,” said Dr. Hedy Ginzberg, Medical Director, Ontario Thoracic Society. “But it can be particularly dangerous for those living with lung disease. Medical guidelines recommend the annual flu vaccination as well as the pneumococcal vaccination for patients with COPD.”

Some younger adults (19 through 64 years of age) are also at increased risk including those:

  • With chronic illnesses (lung, heart, liver, or kidney disease; asthma; diabetes; or alcoholism)
  • With conditions that weaken the immune system (HIV/AIDS, cancer, or damaged/absent spleen)
  • Living in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities
  • With cochlear implants or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks (escape of the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord)
  • Who smoke.

“While there is no cure for lung diseases such as asthma and COPD, through an effective management plan, individuals affected by these diseases can live fairly active lives,” said Habib. “An integral part of any good management plan, as supported by recommendations made by the Canadian Thoracic Society, is vaccination against both influenza and pneumococcal disease.

“We feel strongly that vaccination is an effective and cost-effective strategy for the control of infectious disease, including pneumococcal disease. The success of our universal childhood vaccine program points to the need for a similar immunization program where vaccines exist to ensure they achieve their full potential to prevent disease.”

If you have COPD (chronic bronchitis or emphysema), are a smoker, are over 64 years old, or if you have not been vaccinated against the flu, you are at increased risk of developing pneumococcal related diseases, like pneumonia and meningitis. You should speak with your doctor or health-care provider about vaccination against the flu and pneumococcal infection.

If you have questions about immunization or any other lung health issue, call The Lung Association Lung Health Information Line at 1-888-344-LUNG (5864) to speak to a Certified Respiratory Educator. You can also email info@on.lung.ca


Contact: Monica Kocsmaros | 416-864-9911 ext. 292 | MKocsmaros@on.lung.ca