Ontario introduces free immunisation for school kids

Image copyright NIAID Image caption The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is financing the project In 2018, Ontario began offering free vaccines to all new mothers in the province. Now the country’s largest province…

Ontario introduces free immunisation for school kids

Image copyright NIAID Image caption The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is financing the project

In 2018, Ontario began offering free vaccines to all new mothers in the province.

Now the country’s largest province is making similar immunisation available to children.

The vaccine will offer protection against tetanus, diphtheria, polio, whooping cough, measles, mumps and rubella (measles)

Under the plan, new children aged five to 11 must be immunised.

The province says the flu vaccination will be free to students and families with annual income below about $70,000 (£53,000).

Schools in the province will administer the shots to about a million children, although it is not clear how many will need the full vaccination programme.

A full course of shots, including the flu vaccine, can cost about $120.

The vaccines are part of a program called Ontario Immunization for Healthy Children. They will be made available from early December through the provincial’s immunisation clinics.

“Our students should be able to access the vaccines they need, which prevent their classmates and staff from catching and spreading serious diseases,” says Jane Gregory, Ontario’s Minister of Children, Community and Social Services.

“This is a critical step towards building stronger communities that promote health, help Ontario’s economy and strengthen our families.”

More than 50 research studies have shown that immunisation significantly lowers the risk of death and illness from tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, mumps and rubella (measles).

The average age at which a child becomes immunised is between two and three years.

According to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, using the 1950s World Health Organization vaccine schedule, one year of age is the recommended time frame for babies to start vaccinations.

The “HPV vaccine is also one of the most effective public health tools we have to prevent cancers, including the most common ones in girls and women”, says Michael Gardam, president of the Canadian Pediatric Society.

“Every time we can prevent a disease by giving kids the HPV vaccine, we are doing our part to protect Canada’s future.”

Health Canada recommends all girls aged 11 or 12 to have the HPV vaccine. The vaccine aims to prevent cervical, vulvar and vaginal cancers, as well as certain genital infections.

“Risk of complications from tetanus after receiving a booster is very low,” says Carol Jones, chief of vaccine safety in Ontario.

“Diphtheria is not possible to avoid, but tetanus only appears in 2% of cases and the likelihood of having an adverse reaction to a tetanus booster is not greater than to a tetanus vaccine.”

Although the measles vaccination will not be offered in Ontario, immunised individuals will receive their first dose before they begin high school.

Ontario is the first province to offer free immunisation to all new mothers in addition to their yearly childhood immunisation schedule.

According to The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one Canadian in three girls do not have completed the series of five vaccinations.

More from the BBC:

Around 14,000 people die each year in Ontario from preventable diseases.

In Canada, roughly 4.7 million children between five and 11 years old are not fully immunised.

Out of 435 million children under five worldwide, only 23% are fully immunised.

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