Health Canada approves first COVID-19 vaccine for kids aged five to 11

Vaccine protects children against meningococcal meningitis B – a potentially life-threatening infection

Health Canada approves first COVID-19 vaccine for kids aged five to 11

Canada’s national health regulator has approved the first vaccine for children aged five to 11 to protect them against meningococcal meningitis B – a potentially life-threatening infection.

A previous vaccine used in Canada to prevent meningococcal disease was ineffective for the majority of strains, including meningococcal meningitis B. This new vaccine provides protection against the most serious meningococcal strains in Canada.

“This new vaccine will play a major role in protecting Canada’s most vulnerable populations, particularly the most at-risk, the young children,” said Dr Satish K. Tripathi, professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and professor of pediatrics and microbiology and immunology at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

“This means the children who receive the vaccine are less likely to develop serious meningococcal disease as they grow up.”

One in 10 to 20 Canadian children is diagnosed with meningococcal disease in a given year, putting them at greater risk of serious and permanent disease and death.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information estimates that, globally, there are 77,000 bacterial meningococcal disease cases a year, with almost half fatal.

Meningococcal B is the most common cause of life-threatening diseases in Canada, most commonly occurring in young children. Early symptoms in children and young adults include high fever, headache, stiff neck, stiff shoulders, lethargy, nausea and vomiting, and it is usually detected and treated at the time of a single type of bacterial infection, meningococcal meningitis. The illness can cause meningitis, sepsis and death.

“The introduction of a meningococcal vaccine by Health Canada is a significant step forward in protecting Canadians and improving the future health of our children,” said Dr Bessma Momani, director general of the federal Office of Meningitis.

“As well, it makes it easier for parents to determine the level of protection that is available to their children, a consideration particularly important in this age group.”

The vaccine known as COVID-19 works by instructing the immune system to attack certain proteins found on the surface of bacteria. It is the first vaccine to provide complete protection against meningococcal B in Canada, only available in three doses.

It is available as an out-of-pocket cost-share program on the provincial health ministry’s smartphone app. The vaccine will also be made available free of charge by the vaccine-manufacturer.

The World Health Organization and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommend meningococcal vaccine for all children aged 11 or 12 for protection against life-threatening meningococcal disease, including meningococcal sepsis.

The other strains vaccine used in Canada to prevent meningococcal disease are metapneumovirus, vaccine-preventable human metapneumovirus, acute flaccid myelitis and freckle meningitis.

Despite two years of research, Health Canada said it has not been found to cause clinically significant adverse events.

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