This cold and flu season, the British Columbia government is warning about respiratory syncytial virus, a respiratory virus that can be dangerous, especially for older people who are at higher risk.
Ramona Kaputin, B.C. advocate for the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, wonders why the province won’t cover the cost of a new RSV vaccine called Alexby that was just approved by Health Canada.
So what’s the price tag for British Columbians who choose to pay out of pocket at the pharmacy? $290.
“Why not give the vaccine away for free? We’re going to keep so many people out of the emergency room, even though we know what happens in the emergency room. , which is really scary,” Kaputin said, arguing that paying for the vaccine will keep seniors out of the ER and save money in the long run.
Pharmacist Nika Magsood agrees. She says many patients who come to Pharmasave in North Vancouver to get a flu shot ask about the RSV vaccine, but think twice about the cost.
“They are shocked. Some look away, some go away to think about it and never come back,” Mahmoud said.
Doug Beaton, who came to Pharmasave to get his flu shot on Monday, was disappointed to learn he would have to pay nearly $300.
“A lot of people won’t be able to afford that. It would cost too much,” Beaton said. “The flu shot is free for everyone, but the RSV shot is not. So on the one hand you’re getting protection, and on the other hand you’re not.”
The Ontario government is the only province to cover the new respiratory syncytial virus vaccine for everyone over 60 in long-term care and some residents of other senior living facilities.
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the country’s government is waiting for federal guidance on Alexby before deciding on targets.
“The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) will make a recommendation on its use, and we are likely to follow that recommendation,” Dix said.
But NACI already recommends the shingles vaccine for everyone over 50, and B.C. doesn’t cover it either. The cost for two doses is $320.
“That’s not fair. What’s wrong with B.C.?” Capuchin said she believes both RSV and shingles should be free for seniors.
“I don’t understand why this is not being moved faster, especially given the current state of operation of the health system. We are facing a huge crisis,” Kapchin said.
“This is more like preventive medicine and can prevent patients from going to the hospital. Given how busy medical settings are these days, this is definitely something to consider,” Magsood said.
Beaton also believes the state needs to look at the big picture when it comes to health care costs.
“I think paying upfront will reduce back-end health care costs. If someone doesn’t go to the hospital because they’ve been vaccinated, it will save the government and the system a lot of money,” Beaton said. said.
The 64-year-old opted not to receive the RSV vaccine during a visit to the pharmacy on Monday, choosing instead to pick up a pamphlet and think first. Maghsood said most of the patients who say they would “consider” never come back for the shot, adding: “They want it, they just can’t afford it.”