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Future of Health Care

Opportunity Exists in Improving Access to Vaccines

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Sponsored by:

Dr. Gregory W. Taylor

Co-Chair, Adult Vaccine Alliance 

Dr. Jia Hu

Co-Chair, Adult Vaccine Alliance 

Large-scale vaccination reduces the burden on an already strained health system

For some two hundred years, vaccines have protected people from a host of diseases and have saved more lives than any other intervention in modern medicine.1  


Most recently, the importance of vaccines was demonstrated during the pandemic. Large-scale vaccination led to reduced illness and fewer deaths, while also reducing the burden on an already strained health system. Studies showed the vaccines were also highly cost-effective for countries around the world.2

Vaccines have saved more lives than any other medical invention in history. They are a safe and effective prevention tool, proven to reduce illness, hospitalizations, and deaths. Canadians deserve to have access to all NACI- recommended vaccines without the barrier of paying out of pocket.

– Dr. Jia Hu

Despite some challenges, Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout proceeded relatively smoothly. A key factor contributing to high initial vaccine uptake was the public funding of COVID-19 vaccines. It’s scary to think how low uptake would have been if people had to pay out-of-pocket for the vaccine. 

Inequalities in funding create barriers to access 

Unfortunately, not all recommended vaccines are publicly funded in Canada. While the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) makes evidence-based recommendations on vaccinations, a recommendation does not mean funding. Instead, decisions are left up to the provinces and territories. For example, the vaccine for shingles, which has been available since 2017 and is strongly recommended by NACI, is publicly funded in fewer than half of the provinces and territories. Inequalities in funding creates barriers to access which reduce vaccine uptake, subsequently affecting the health of the most vulnerable.3

Adult vaccination far below national targets

This problem tends to be the most serious for adults, where a combination of lower awareness, funding gaps, and access issues contribute to lower coverage rates than for pediatric vaccines. Adult vaccination is far below national targets: Only approximately 55 per cent of adults 65 and older received a dose of pneumococcal vaccine in 2020, despite a target uptake rate of 80 per cent.4 Similarly, despite the shingles vaccine being recommended for all adults over 50, uptake is only 27 per cent in this population.5 

It’s time to make funding of all NACI-recommended vaccines a reality

While not all the issues around uptake can be easily solved, one thing we can do as a country to improve vaccination rates is to ensure the public funding of NACI-recommended vaccines. There is broad public support — a 2023 survey conducted by 19 to Zero showed 73 per cent of adults across Canada feel that NACI-recommended vaccines should be publicly funded. It’s time to improve equality around one of the most important tools in our illness prevention toolbox.  Let’s make the funding of all NACI-recommended vaccines a reality. 

Dr. Jia Hu & Dr. Gregory W. Taylor, Co-Chairs, Adult Vaccine Alliance – an organization dedicated to improving uptake of important adult vaccines across Canada.

To learn more about Canada’s Adult Vaccine Alliance, visit


 1 World Health Organization, “A brief history of vaccines,” accessed November 21, 2023,
2 Utami AM, et al. “Economic evaluation of COVID-19 vaccination: A systematic review,” Journal of Global Health 13, no. 06001 (2023): 1-14,  doi: 10.7189/jogh.13.06001 
3 Adult Vaccine Access Coalition, “Financial Barriers to Adult Immunization,” last modified March 2017,
4  Government of Canada, “Vaccination Coverage Goals and Vaccine Preventable Disease Reduction Targets by 2025, accessed November 21, 2023,
5 Public Health Agency of Canada, “Vaccine Uptake in Canadian Adults 2021,” last modified July 21, 2022,
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