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Shingles Vaccine Free for Ontario Seniors

Archived News Release

Shingles Vaccine Free for Ontario Seniors

Provincial Program Helps Save Seniors Money and Stay Healthy

Ministry of Health

Ontario is reminding seniors who are turning 65 in 2017 that, starting January 1, they will be eligible to get the shingles vaccine free of charge, saving them approximately $170 and helping them stay healthy.

Seniors aged 65 to 70 can get the vaccine from their doctor or nurse practitioner. The vaccine greatly reduces the risk of developing shingles.

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, affects more than 42,000 people every year in Ontario. People with shingles often experience pain, tingling, or itching and then a painful rash. This rash can last for a month or more and is often severe enough to interfere with daily activities. For some, complications from the virus can lead to serious health problems such as loss of vision and prolonged nerve pain.

Expanding Ontario's publicly funded immunization program to help seniors stay healthy is part of the government's plan to build a better Ontario through its Patients First: Action Plan for Health Care, which is providing patients with faster access to the right care, better home and community care, the information they need to stay healthy and a health care system that's sustainable for generations to come.

Quick Facts

  • Ontario is the only jurisdiction in Canada that provides the shingles vaccine free of charge.
  • Approximately 850,000 seniors between the ages of 65 and 70 are eligible to receive the publicly funded shingles vaccine.
  • Approximately 200,000 doses of the publicly funded shingles vaccine have been distributed throughout Ontario since the program launched in September.
  • The shingles vaccine is also available in participating pharmacies. Patients who choose to receive the vaccine from a pharmacist will need a prescription from their primary care provider and will have to pay the pharmacy a fee for the vaccine.
  • Studies show that the vaccine is highly effective when seniors are vaccinated between the ages of 65 to 70. The program aligns with scientific and expert recommendations from Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization and Ontario’s Provincial Infectious Diseases Advisory Committee on Immunization.
  • Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox.

Additional Resources


“Shingles can flare up later in life, most often when a person’s immune system is weakened due to age or as a result of other health problems. Seniors between 65 and 70 now have the opportunity to help protect themselves and save money by getting the vaccine free from their primary care provider.”

Dr. Eric Hoskins

Minister of Health and Long-Term Care

“The shingles vaccine lowers the risk of getting shingles significantly and thus reduces the chance of complications from this disease for people without medical contraindications. Eligible seniors are encouraged to get the free vaccine.”

Dr. David Williams

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health

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Government Health and Wellness