Some individuals in Alberta, particularly those who require it the most, may find the new RSV vaccine too costly, as it is priced at almost $300 and is only approved for Canadians aged 60 and above.
Arexvy is the first vaccine given the green light by Health Canada to protect against respiratory syncytial virus or RSV.
The virus typically results in a mild illness, but it can severely affect infants and the elderly.
Randy Howden, the owner of the Crowfoot and Sunridge Medicine Shoppe locations, expressed that having a vaccine capable of preventing severe illness and hospitalizations is highly significant.
However, the cost is high and Alberta, similar to other provinces, does not currently provide financial support for it. Alberta Health is anticipated to assess this matter in the upcoming months.
According to Howden, the cost of the RSV shot may differ slightly among pharmacies, but it typically amounts to approximately $300, including the injection fee.
Howden mentioned that many seniors inquire about the timing of public funding.
He mentioned that many private insurance companies provide coverage for it, but seniors without an insurance plan and with a fixed income may find it challenging.
I have a few clients who would be perfect for the position. They pose a significant risk, but currently, they claim that they cannot afford it.
Calls for provincial coverage
RSV is not new, but it gained public attention as part of the so-called “tripledemic” — along with influenza and COVID-19 — that overwhelmed Alberta hospitals last winter.
Dr. Samir Sinha, director of health policy research at the National Institute on Aging in Toronto and co-author of a recent report on the impact of RSV in Canada, stated that RSV is equally as lethal as influenza, particularly among older Canadians.
I believe we should provide coverage for this vaccine. Based on the evidence I’ve observed, it is evident that this vaccine will have a significant cost-saving impact on our healthcare system. Moreover, it will also contribute to saving lives.
The province of Ontario is providing the RSV vaccine at no cost to individuals aged 60 and above residing in long-term care facilities, elder-care lodges, and select retirement homes.
However, the Alberta government will not make a decision on coverage until they receive recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), which are anticipated to be provided in the coming year.
The press secretary of Health Minister Adriana LaGrange stated that Alberta Health collaborates with the Alberta Advisory Committee on Immunization to assess if a vaccine will be incorporated into the immunization program funded by the province.
She mentioned that they collaborate to examine NACI’s suggestions in conjunction with scientific literature, as well as assessing the current situation of the disease in Alberta.
“If the analysis concludes that there is a noteworthy requirement to include the vaccine in the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan, it will be incorporated into the immunization program funded by the province of Alberta.”
Dr. Jia Hu, a public health physician in Calgary, states that the process requires a certain amount of time.
Hu, an adjunct professor at the University of Calgary, expressed the desire to examine both the efficiency and cost effectiveness of a certain aspect. Hu hopes that NACI will furnish the necessary information in the near future.
“I anticipate that by the following season, we will possess additional data regarding the target audience and a larger availability of the vaccine, among other factors. Nevertheless, it is an exceptionally effective vaccine.”
According to Hu, it is uncommon for a province to provide coverage before receiving recommendations from NACI.
I am optimistic that a good number of individuals will receive the RSV vaccine within this year. Furthermore, I anticipate a growth in the vaccination rate for the upcoming year. However, it is evident that there will be extensive efforts required to enhance public awareness on this matter.