Published online at GlobalTVEdmonton.com on January 31, 2011.
Linda Hoang, Global News: Monday, January 31, 2011
Grade 9 students to get meningitis vaccinations
About 40,000 Grade 9 students in Alberta are set to get immunized against several forms of meningitis.
It’s part of a new $2 million immunization program that will begin Feb 1.
The vaccine, which will protect against four different strains of meningococcal disease, will be issused through school-based clinics and become part of the annual immunization program offered to adolescents in the province.
Dr. Andre Corriveau, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said Alberta is only the second province in Canada to offer the quad-protection, “quadravant” vaccine, although several provinces already implement similiar school vaccination programs for adolescents.
“It is a better vaccine,” Corriveau said. “It provides a better and longer lasting immunity.”
The protection can last up to 10 years, right through adolescence, he said, which is important as teenagers are at a higher risk of contracting the disease.
Alberta Health Services chose to implement the program in Grade 9 students because a vaccination program for for diphteria and tetanus already exist in that grade.
“So they’ll be offered the vaccines at the same time,” Corriveau explained.
He says a peak risk period for contracting meningococcal disease is during teenage or young adult years.
While the $2 million vaccination program is not a response to any outbreak in particular, it’s based on trends in the past 10 years.
“In the past year we had 12 cases of vaccine-preventable meningococcal disease including three deaths and over the last 10 years we had noticed 280 cases,” Corriveau said.
On average there are about two deaths as a result of meningococcal disease each year.
More than 90 per cent of Grade 9 students in Alberta are already successfully immunized against diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis.
The risk of spreading meningitis increases during adolescene through sharing of food, drinks, lipstick, lip balm, water bottles and more.
The meningitis vaccine is not mandatory.
New Brunswick is the only other province that offers the quadravant, which attacks four strains of the virus.
Since 2000, 26 people in Alberta have died from the illness.
In January, two cases of bacterial meningitis were confirmed in Edmonton, found in a pre-schooler and a high school student.
Click here to learn more about Alberta’s immunization and vaccine programs.
With files from Vassy Kapelos