Province offers second dose of chickenpox vaccine
Children to receive second dose of vaccine from Aug. 1
By: By Megan Sarrazin
| Posted: Wednesday, Jul 25, 2012 06:00 am
Receiving a second round of chickenpox vaccinations will become the norm for preschool-aged children at the beginning of August.
The varicella vaccine has been administered to children 12 months of age since 2001, but a second dose is being added to further prevent contraction, said Dr. James Talbot, Chief Medical Officer of Health.
“It looks like [the vaccine is] lasting for four or five years and then starts to come down, which is why we’re offering the vaccine to four- or six-year-olds,” Talbot said.
Chickenpox often has no lasting effects, though it can be life threatening to higher-risk individuals like newborn babies or adults with weakened immune systems.
“For small numbers of kids, more severe disease is possible and they can get a very bad pneumonia, which can be life threatening and occasionally . . . those rare events can include death,” he said, adding no chickenpox-related deaths were reported last year.
The second dose of the varicella vaccine will be combined with the standard vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella that is routinely administered to children age four to six.
Fred Horne, minister of Health and Wellness, said the vaccine will be available for more than 4,000 children, adding that receiving the vaccine will also increase protection for individuals in contact with the child.
Talbot estimates 90 to 95 per cent of children receive the first dose and said he would like to see at least 80 per cent receive the second.
Roughly 3,500 cases of chickenpox are confirmed each year, which is a significant decrease since immunization began more than a decade ago, he said.
“Rates have gone down since they’ve offered the first dose, but are starting to plateau,” he said.
The second immunization is free for children from four to six years old when administered at an Alberta Health Services public health clinic. The estimated cost to the government is $1.7 million each year.
The initiative is limited to children between four and six, although Talbot said the program may be reassessed in the future to include a wider age category.
He said most provinces are already providing the second dose or are planning to, in accordance with National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommendations.
“We count on the parents to do the right thing but Alberta Health Services will do its best to make that as easy as possible,” he said.