New tools help Islanders get immunized
Getting vaccinated at any age provides the best, longest-lasting protection against vaccine-preventable diseases.
PEI's childhood immunization rates have been consistently among the highest in Canada, but rates for adults are well below national targets. The province’s Chief Public Health Office (CPHO) is actively engaging with Islanders to help boost immunization coverage. To learn what vaccines you need – and where they are offered – visit www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/adult-immunizations.
“Many adults in PEI are in need of additional immunizations based on health and lifestyle risk factors,” said Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison. “We are making a concerted effort to reach as many adults across PEI as possible to protect those who are most at risk of serious complications from vaccine-preventable diseases.”
A special project was launched last fall at select Health PEI influenza clinics. During the waiting period after getting the flu shot, adults were offered the opportunity to be assessed for additional vaccines. Approximately 75% of adults who were assessed needed at least 1 vaccine, and are getting these needed vaccines at follow up adult immunization clinics offered at Public Health Nursing.
Now adults in PEI can determine their own vaccine needs by completing an online self-assessment, developed in partnership with CANImmunize and available through www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/adult-immunizations or directly at www.canimmunize.ca/en/pei-assessment-tool.
“Immunization protects individuals and communities by preventing the spread of disease,” said Health and Wellness Minister Robert Mitchell. “I encourage all Islanders to take the online assessment tool, and contact Public Health Nursing or their health professional for up-to-date information and to book an appointment. As more of us get the vaccines we need, the risk of disease is reduced and the healthier we are as a community.”
At the flu clinics adults were also asked to complete a survey about their knowledge and beliefs about immunizations. “This important feedback from Islanders will help us understand some of the barriers that adults face related to immunization and ultimately help with immunization program delivery across PEI,” said Dr. Morrison. The results of the research study will be communicated to Islanders at the end of 2018.
Why adult immunization is essential
There are several reasons why adult immunization is essential. As we get older, the protection from previous vaccinations can decrease. There are also diseases that are more common in adults, even healthy adults, such as shingles and pneumococcal disease. As we age our immune systems become weaker, resulting in a greater risk of harm for certain vaccine-preventable diseases such as the flu.
Getting vaccinated greatly reduces your risk of suffering severe complications from these diseases.
Adult vaccination schedule for Prince Edward Island
Staying up-to-date with your vaccinations also protects those around you from getting sick, including babies, the elderly and those who may be immunocompromised.
There is a recommended adult immunization schedule for Prince Edward Island (https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/publication/adults-immunization-schedule-use-health-care-providers). The majority of recommended vaccines for adults are provided free of charge at Public Health Nursing (www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/health-pei/public-health-nursing) offices across the province.
Immunization self-assessment tool
The province’s Chief Public Health Office (CPHO) has partnered with CANImmunize to help more Islanders find out how they can benefit from adult immunizations.
An electronic Immunization Assessment Tool (www.canimmunize.ca/en/pei-assessment-tool) specifically for Prince Edward Island determines vaccine needs based on responses to certain health and lifestyle questions. The self-assessment tool can also be found by downloading the free CANImmunize App (for iOS and Android devices). A screen shot or print out of the results can be taken to Public Health Nursing or a health care provider for follow up.
Many of the recommended vaccines are offered at no cost at public health nursing offices. Islanders are encouraged to talk to their health care providers about their vaccine needs or connect with your local Health PEI public health nursing office to ask about adult immunization.
Adult immunization assessment pilot project
The Department of Health and Wellness, with financial support from the Public Health Agency of Canada, conducted a pilot project this fall where adults attending select Health PEI influenza clinics were asked if they would like to be assessed for additional vaccine needs. Approximately 700 adults were assessed using the immunization tool and 3/4 of those assessed were recommended to receive at least one vaccine. Follow up immunization appointments are being booked at Public Health Nursing Offices to administer the publically funded vaccines to those adults already assessed. The results of this pilot study will be used to further develop program initiatives to reach more adults who need immunizations.
Adult immunization research study
At select Health PEI influenza clinics, Islanders have been given the opportunity to express their opinions about vaccines by completing a research survey. Participants who agreed to be contacted later for a follow up survey will receive a second survey and the results will be used to help support policies and programs for adult immunization.
Public awareness campaign
Prince Edward Islands has developed a public awareness campaign to better inform Islanders on the importance of adult immunization and how to access services.
As part of the campaign a short You Tube video has been created, as well as a series of posters for social media, a redeveloped webpage and various advertising outlets.
During the last couple of months more than 12,000 people have watched the Youtube video, more than 775,000 people have seen the adult immunization online posters, and more than 1,200 Islanders have visited the new adult immunization web page.