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Rob Shaw: BC United promises free shingles vaccines for seniors

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The Opposition BC United party says it will provide British Columbia seniors with free shingles vaccines if elected this fall.

Leader Kevin Falcon made the announcement at a seniors expo in Surrey on the weekend.

Shingles is a viral infection that is extremely painful. One in every three seniors in Canada is expected to contract the virus.

“In the middle of an affordability crisis, countless seniors face serious financial barriers to accessing the shingles vaccine, which costs approximately $160 per dose,” Falcon said in a statement.

“BC United will ensure all seniors receive the health care they deserve, and introduce a program to provide, at no cost, the shingles vaccine, which can prevent a painful and debilitating illness.”

B.C. does not currently cover the shingles vaccine under Medicare, though several other provinces cover the medication. Vaccines range from $150 to $200 per dose, with a minimum two doses required.

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Seniors Advocate Dan Levitt issued a report last week calling on government to pay for the shingles vaccine due to the affordability crisis facing seniors, as they struggle to afford rent, groceries and other increased costs.

Health Minister Adrian Dix on Monday said the government is actively considering covering the vaccine, but criticized Falcon for announcing it without costing the promise, which he said is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Shingles is a very negative health outcome, it’s a very painful thing for seniors and for others,” said Dix.

“So we’re looking at this actively, looking at this question of providing what’s called Shingrix, and there have been other shingles vaccines, but providing Shingrix on a population health basis.”

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