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Raise Urgency on Influenza

Focusing on Adults 65 years of age and older.


Older Adults are More at Risk of Being Seriously Affected1

While adults aged 65+ represent approximately 15% of the Canadian population, they account for:2

  • Up to 70% of flu-related hospitalizations3-8
  • Up to 91% of flu-related deaths3-8

Older adults are the most vulnerable to influenza, due to age-related factors that increase their susceptibility to infections and complications.9,10

The Broader Impact of Influenza

Elevated Risk of Death Among Older Adults with Underlying Conditions

For Canadians aged 65+ admitted to hospital with a respiratory complication, the risk for influenza-attributed death was:

  • 5x greater among those with chronic heart diseases11

  • 12x greater among those with chronic lung diseases11

  • 20x greater among those with both chronic heart and lung diseases11

The Broader Impact of Influenza

Decreased Functional Status

  • Loss of independence was the biggest fear of almost half of Canadian seniors polled12
  • Influenza can lead to long-lasting disability in seniors13
  • In one study, 25% of nursing home residents with influenza experienced decline in at least one major function (bathing, dressing, and mobility) for at least 3-4 months post- infection14

The Broader Impact of Influenza

Adults 65+ are at High Risk of Influenza Complications


A natural and progressive weakening of the immune system with age that can result in:

  • Higher incidence and severity of infectious diseases, including influenza15,16
  • Lower strength and persistence of antibody responses to vaccines15,16
  • Influenza vaccine effectiveness is about half of that in healthy adults17

Chronic Conditions

According to data from 2007, 74% of Canadian seniors (65+) reported at least one of the following high-risk chronic conditions:18

  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Emphysema or COPD
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2020a). Flu & People 65 Years and Older.
  2. National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), 2016. A Review of the Literature of High Dose Seasonal Influenza Vaccine for Adults 65 Years and Older.
  3. PHAC. FluWatch. August 11-24, 2013. 
  4. PHAC. FluWatch. August 10-23, 2014. 
  5. PHAC. FluWatch. August 16-19, 2015. 
  6. PHAC. FluWatch. August 14-27, 2016. 
  7. PHAC. FluWatch. August 20-26, 2017.
  8. PHAC. FluWatch. July  22-25, 2018. 
  9. Gavazzi G. & Krause K. (2002). Ageing and infection. Lancet Infect Dis, 2(11), 659–666. 
  10. Pera, A. et al. (2015). Immunosenescence: Implications for response to infection and vaccination in older people. Maturitas, 82(1), 50–55.
  11. Schanzer, D. L., et al. (2008). Vaccine, 26(36), 4697-4703
  12. Canadian Association of Retired Persons. (2016). Important Survey on Seniors’ Health. Retrieved from 
  13. Covinsky, et al. Loss of independence in activities of daily  living in older adults hospitalized with medical illnesses: Increased vulnerability with age. The American Geriatrics Society, 51, 451-458. doi: 10.1046/j.1532- 5415.2003.51152.x 
  14. Barker, W. H., et al (1998). Archives of Internal Medicine, 158(6)..
  15. Doherty, M., et al. (2016). Vaccine, 34(52), 6681-6690.
  16. McElhaney, J. E., et al. (2016). Front Immunol, 7, 41. 
  17. National Advisory Committee on Immunization. (2019). Canadian Immunization Guide Chapter on Influenza and  Statement on Seasonal Influenza Vaccine for 2019-2020. 
  18. Canadian Institute for Health Information, 2011. Seniors and the Health Care System: What Is the Impact of Multiple Chronic Conditions?
MAT-BH-2200205-Mar 2022