Do we have all our bases covered when it comes to the recommended vaccinations? 

By: Bill Zolis

We’ve all been talking about vaccines over the last couple of years, particularly because of Covid-19, of course, and I think we’re all pretty familiar with the main concepts. But when I asked myself about my own status in terms of vaccinations, I have to admit that I wasn’t too sure. 

So I decided to look into it. I wanted to make sure that I had all the bases covered and I wanted to pin down what, exactly, I should be doing – if anything. 

Of course, I’m not an expert on vaccines and I can’t offer any kind of advice on the subject – except this: Talk to your doctor about your vaccine status.  

But I did spend some time looking into it and I’d like to share what I came up with. 

First, I asked myself, what vaccines are available in Canada, and which ones are recommended for an adult – like me – who has had all of the childhood shots some years ago? 

 Health Canada and the Centres of Disease Control (CDC) have exactly the same list. 

– Tetanus and diphtheria, once every 10 years for adults. 

– Pertussis, or whooping cough, once in adulthood and – subject to medical advice – once in every pregnancy. 

– Pneumococcal, or invasive pneumococcal disease, once at around 65 years of age. 

– Shingles, a single dose, between the ages of 65 and 70. 

– Influenza, or the annual flu shot, once every fall. 

– Covid-19, as recommended by public health authorities as new variants emerge. 

These vaccines are covered by our provincial health plans. (Ontario covers the shingles vaccine for patients between the ages of 65 and 70.) 

Now, I should note that these are recommended – it’s still a matter of individual choice. Or, more to the point, perhaps, it’s a matter of individual risk assessment. With infectious diseases, such as the flu, the risk of serious complications – up to and including death – is greater for some people, depending on their age, respiratory health, immune system status and even living conditions. 

That’s why, when we’re looking at the list of standard vaccines that are available, a conversation with a health care provider – such as your family doctor – seems like a good idea.  

The first thing to pin down, in my own case, at least, is which vaccines we’ve had, and when. Then we can talk about risk and decide if any gaps need to be filled in with fresh vaccinations. 

When we talk about risk assessment, we’re not only talking about risks to our own health, we’re also talking about risks to the health of others. With highly communicable diseases, such as the flu and Covid-19, getting vaccinated will make it much less likely that we will spread the disease to other people – whether they be strangers at the mall or our elderly relatives who live alone. Also, some people have medical conditions or are otherwise immunocompromised and either can’t take the vaccines or are less protected by them. Their best protection from the flu, for example, is that others around them are protected. 

Other vaccines may also be necessary based on individual risk factors. For instance, healthcare workers, people who work with animals, international travelers, and people with certain health conditions may require specific vaccines to protect their health and the health of those around them. 

And then there’s travel. If you’re planning to travel outside of the country, especially to some destination you haven’t been to before, there are at least three key points to keep in mind. 

– First, you need to get up-to-date information on any health risks that may be prevalent in your destination, and any vaccine certificates that may be required. 

– Second, you need an evaluation of how these potential risks may affect you, given your travel plans, current health and vaccination status. 

– And third – this is the point I can’t stress enough – you need to do that long before you travel. If you do need to be vaccinated, you may need more than one dose, taken weeks apart. You may need a vaccine certificate before you’re allowed to enter some countries. 

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) suggests you start this process at least three months before you travel. They also provide information on travel advisories and links to travel health clinics that can help you get the vaccines and certificates you many need. 

There is actually a long list of vaccines that are available, some of which we’ve all seen advertised. Remember those commercials for Hepatitis A or B or C vaccines? How one contaminated ice cube in your drink at a resort can give you a very serious liver disease? 

As I said earlier, I’m not in any position to discuss the pros and cons, but I can say, again, that it’s a topic to discuss with your doctor. He or she can give you the information and perspective you need, based on your own circumstances, to help you make an informed decision. 

I should also note that it’s a very different story for our kids – infants, children and adolescents. I think we all pay much more attention to making sure the kids are safe, that their immunizations are up to date, and that we keep good records of their vaccine status. 

Health Canada recommends that everyone create and maintain a vaccine record and schedule for themselves and their family members. The suggested schedule does vary a little from one province to the next, but information for each province is listed on their site. It’s a good place to start if you want to make sure you have all your immunization bases covered. 


I really appreciate comments, ideas, suggestions or just observations about the blog or any other topics in benefits management. I always look forward to hearing from readers. If there’s anything you want to share, please email me at 

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