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World Pneumonia Day:
Protecting older Canadians has never been more important  

Friday, November 10, 2023

On World Pneumonia Day, we recognize the importance of taking precautionary measures in our daily lives to better protect us from contracting pneumonia – a disease that affects many Canadians each year. Despite popular beliefs, pneumococcal pneumonia can occur at any time of the year. As we enter the fall and winter seasons, it’s important to take preventive measures recommended by health officials such as washing and sanitizing hands often, staying home when you’re sick, wearing masks in more highly populated areas such as transit and receiving annual vaccines to prevent respiratory illnesses.

The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic reminded us of the importance of vaccination, and how more vulnerable populations can be impacted in a health crisis. This is especially true for adults aged 65 and older, who in 2022 made up 19 per cent of Canada’s population, a number which is expected to increase to 22.5 per cent by 2030.[1]

If older adults aren’t receiving the vaccines recommended by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), they are left at severe risk of pain, illness and death from preventable diseases.[2] Despite the recommendations and the risks, a recent CanAge report states that Canadians of every age group, from infants to seniors, are currently missing  crucial vaccines. For older adults, that means being vulnerable to preventable diseases like the flu, shingles and pneumonia.
[2] The CanAge report reiterates that after seeing how COVID-19 vaccination was publicized, funded, and made widely accessible, we have a strong example to follow for all NACI-recommended vaccines for older adults. We can, and must, improve vaccination rates for the sake of our loved ones, our more vulnerable populations, and to help reduce the burden on our hospitals and healthcare workers.

NACI has recently updated its recommendations for pneumococcal pneumonia immunization for adults. However, Health Canada noted only 58 per cent of seniors reported receiving the vaccine, far short of the recommended coverage goals of 80 per cent.
[2] Although people 65 and older are at greater risk of pneumonia, they may be unaware that both influenza and pneumonia are the eighth leading cause of death in Canada and accounted for 5,931 deaths in 2020.[3] Both are serious and potentially life-threatening lung infections that can spread easily.

Many different viruses can cause pneumonia including pneumococcal disease, influenza, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and COVID-19.[4],[5]  COVID-19 most notably, has put a strain on Canada’s healthcare system and seniors, especially those in assisted living facilities were most impacted. During the first wave of the pandemic, residents of nursing and seniors’ homes accounted for more than 80 per cent of all reported COVID-19 deaths.[6] As the COVID-19 virus continues to mutate, it creates more opportunities for Canadians to contract pneumonia, with potentially long-term effects on physical and mental health.[7],[8]

To ensure older Canadians are better protected against illnesses such as pneumonia, it is important that efforts are intensified to counteract misinformation, reassure Canadians about vaccine safety, and elevate vaccine awareness.
[2] This can only be achieved when vaccines are made easily accessible and public awareness campaigns about vaccines available to Canadians are prioritized.

As the conversation continues this World Pneumonia Day and beyond, Pfizer Canada is proud to continue its outreach to support the health of all Canadians.

[1] Fraser Institute, “Canada’s aging population—what does it mean for government finances?” 2022.
[2] CanAge, “Adult Vaccination in Canada Cross-Country Report Card 2022,” 2022.
[3] Statista, “Influenza and pneumonia in Canada - Statistics & Facts,” 2023.
[4] Canadian Lung Association, “Causes of Pneumonia,”
[5] Cleaveland Clinic, “COVID Pneumonia,”
[6] Statistics Canada, “Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in nursing and residential care facilities in Canada,” 2021.
[7]  Cleaveland Clinic, “COVID Pneumonia,”
[8]National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, “Pneumonia Recovery,”,have%20trouble%20breathing%20or%20talking


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