Health

Expanded immunization program in Ontario

To protect vulnerable people and reduce the costs of health care, the Government of Ontario added three vaccines to the immunization program funded by the public sector.

The Government of Ontario recently added three free vaccines to the immunization schedule: the rotavirus vaccine, the second dose of chickenpox vaccine and the whooping cough booster vaccine. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization and the Canadian Paediatric Society strongly recommend routine immunization.

Rotavirus vaccine

What is rotavirus?
Rotavirus can cause gastroenteritis, important fever and vomiting followed by a severe diarrhea that can lead to dehydration. Rotavirus can survive for months on a surface that is not disinfected.

Complications 
Severe dehydration and increased risk of other complications for children with weakened immune systems.

Why is it free? 
Almost all children contract the virus before the age of 5. In Canada, the infection can cause up to 56,000 physician visits, 27,000 emergency room visits and, among these, up to 7,000 hospitalizations per year. The annual medical costs of rotavirus gastroenteritis are estimated at $17 Million and the total economic burden is estimated at $46 Million.

Who has access to the vaccine? 
Children 6 to 24 weeks of age. The vaccine is administered orally.

Chickenpox vaccine

What is chickenpox?
Chickenpox is an illness caused by the varicella-zoster virus and its symptoms can include fatigue, mild headache, mild fever, chills and muscle aches. An itchy rash or spots follow these symptoms. Most people contract it before the age of 12 and the risk of complications increases with age.

Complications
Ear infections, pneumonia, various infections and central nervous system disorders that can lead to brain damage and intellectual disability. Chickenpox was also associated with the flesh-eating bacteria.

Why is it free?
Because of the severity of possible complications and to avoid cases of varicella down, the government of Ontario offers a free second dose of the vaccine in addition to the first. The medical and social costs associated with chickenpox in Canada have been estimated to $122.4 Million per year.

The second injection reduces the risk for children to contract chickenpox and reduces the symptoms when contracted.

Who has access to the vaccine?
Children aged 12 months old to 11 years old.

Whooping cough (pertussis) booster vaccine

What is pertussis?
Pertussis or whooping cough is a serious disease, especially in children, characterized by spells of violent coughing that can cause vomiting. It can even cause a person to stop eating, drinking or breathing normally.

Complications
Pneumonia (one in 10), brain damage, convulsions and death (rare).

Why is it free?
The incidence of pertussis cases increased from 9.6% in 1998 to 31.3% in 2004 among teenagers and adults. Adults can carry pertussis and unwittingly expose babies and young children who are not fully immunized to significant complications. You can also get whooping cough more than once.

Who has access to the vaccine?
Adults aged 19 to 64 years old. The vaccine (Tdap) also protects against tetanus and diphtheria, two diseases that are often fatal.

Ontarians who would like further information or to be vaccinated should contact a health professional.

Reference
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