Alberta adults are not getting critical immunizations, putting lives at risk and placing more burden on the healthcare system heading into peak respiratory virus season, according to a study conducted by Pharmasave. The Alberta government’s vaccine uptake data shows the vast majority of adults have not received this year’s recommended flu and COVID-19 vaccines. As of November 25, flu vaccine coverage in Alberta is at 20.4%, and COVID-19 vaccine coverage is at 14%. In terms of pneumonia vaccines for adults older than 65 years old, 53% have taken the shot — far below the Canadian government’s vaccine coverage goal of 80%. Pharmasave confirmed vaccination uptake against preventable diseases such as flu and pneumonia have fallen below national immunization targets for years. Statistics Canada said flu and pneumonia combined are ninth in the top 10 leading causes of death in Alberta and have ranked near or within them for the past two decades. In September, Alberta received a D rating on CanAge’s 2022-2023 Vaccine Report Card — down from a C in 2021 — highlighting immunization efforts fell short last season and room for improvement with this one. Pharmasave Region Director, Pharmacy, Christine Antler said immunization “remains the most effective way to protect against vaccine-preventable illnesses like influenza, shingles, and pneumonia, yet adult Albertans remain under-vaccinated, leaving them needlessly vulnerable to severe health outcomes and even death.” She explained gaps exist in Alberta surrounding public awareness about the expert-recommended vaccine schedule, where to get vaccinated and the pivotal role they play in the overall health of Albertans. Pharmacists are an important resource in bridging this gap by providing guidance on vaccinations and making them accessible at more than 1,600 pharmacies across the province.Antler added it is critical for people to stay informed and take proactive measures to safeguard their health by speaking with a pharmacist about the vaccines recommended for them.“It takes about two weeks for vaccines to become effective, so it’s not too late for Albertans to protect themselves against circulating illnesses before the holiday season when the circulating viruses typically spread faster with increased socializing and family gatherings,” said Antler in a Monday press release. “This year, in addition to the annual flu shot, we’re also urging everyone to take a more holistic approach to help protect themselves and those around them with other vaccines available including those for pneumonia, shingles, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, and new-this-year RSV.”Pharmasave said new and updated vaccines are released often and produce new recommendations and more confusion. For example, the RSV vaccine has been approved for people 60 and older and is designed to prevent the severe respiratory illness that overwhelmed hospitals across the province last year. Despite the severity of RSV for at-risk people, a poll conducted by the Canadian Pharmacists Association found 51% of Albertans 60 and older are unlikely or unsure about getting the vaccine. Awareness of RSV is low among Albertans, as seven-tenths indicate they have limited awareness; 37% have not heard of it; and one-third have heard of it, but they do not know much about it. “Albertans are facing a significant under-vaccination crisis against preventable diseases, including seasonal influenza, shingles, and pneumonia — all of which can lead to long-lasting and even life-threatening consequences — but pharmacists can help Albertans protect themselves in one appointment at the pharmacy,” said Antler.