New Changes to Ontario’s Childhood Immunization Program
Starting August, 2011, the Ontario government will expand the infant and childhood vaccination program to include one new vaccine (the oral rotavirus vaccine) and a chickenpox booster vaccine. These additions will be fully covered by the Ministry of Health (i.e. no cost to parents). Below is a brief explanation for why these additions have been made.
1. Rotavirus Vaccine
Rotavirus infections cause severe diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration in infants and children. In Canada, seven per cent of children who acquire rotavirus disease require hospitalization. The vaccine, given to infants at 2 and 4 months of age, dramatically reduces the chance of acquiring this disease (or more specifically, the severe forms of this disease). Rotavirus vaccine has been used in the United States for the past 5 years during which hospitalizations due to rotavirus-associated illness dropped dramatically (by as much as 96%). It has been extensively tested and demonstrated to be safe and effective. As of August 2011, rotavirus vaccine will be offered (and fully subsidized) to all Ontario infants less than 6 months of age as part of the routine childhood immunization program.
2. Varicella (Chickenpox) Vaccine
An interesting study was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and published this week in the peer-reviewed journal Pediatrics. The study reviewed mortality data in the United States over the first 17 years since the chickenpox vaccine was introduced. The results showed that deaths associated with chickenpox infections declined by over 97% during that period of time. This suggests that 90 lives are saved per year in the United States as a result of this vaccine. Recent studies have also demonstrated that only 85% of people immunized with the varicella vaccine actually achieve long-term immunity. With a booster this number is expected to increase significantly. The vaccine has been extensively tested and demonstrated to be safe and effective. As of August 2011, a varicella vaccine booster will be offered (and fully subsidized) to children in Ontario as part of the routine childhood immunization program.
Ontario Public Health’s updated childhood immunization schedule now look like this:
2 Months of Age: DPTPH, PC13, Rota
4 Months of Age: DPTPH, PC13, Rota
6 Months of Age: DPTPH
12 Months of Age: MMR, MC, PC13
15 Months of Age: Var
18 Months of Age: DPTPH
4 Years of Age: MMRV, DPTP
DPTPH = Vaccine against Diptheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Polio, H-flu type B Vaccine
PC13 = Vaccine against Pneumococcus – 13 strains
Rota = Vaccine against Rotavirus
MMR = Vaccine against Measles, Mumps, and Rubella
MC = Vaccine against Meningococcus
Var = Vaccine against Chickenpox (Varicella)
MMRV = Vaccine against Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and Varicella
DPTP = Vaccine against Diptheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Polio