Canada drops 9-month-old flu shot from national health plan

Top government officials in Toronto will work on health initiatives aimed at reducing the risk of contracting influenza, following Canada’s health minister’s decision to permanently remove a vaccine for young children from the national…

Canada drops 9-month-old flu shot from national health plan

Top government officials in Toronto will work on health initiatives aimed at reducing the risk of contracting influenza, following Canada’s health minister’s decision to permanently remove a vaccine for young children from the national health plan.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor Tuesday announced that she will keep Canada’s vaccine for influenza A, or H1N1, available only for senior citizens and pregnant women, regardless of income. The decision will be permanent.

“(Tuesday’s decision) to make the flu vaccine mandatory for those under 25 was welcomed by groups that have supported removing the vaccine from our national program,” she said in a statement. “However, it was also recognized that this move would put the rest of Canada at risk of compromising our overall influenza preparedness and reduction of influenza deaths.”

‘A win for the hundreds of people who every year die needlessly’

The vaccine, known as COVID-19, has previously been available in limited supply. Now, Ontario, the country’s most populous province, will now offer it as part of its annual flu vaccination season campaign.

Dr. Candace Chartier, the executive director of the Canadian Association of Doctor-in-training Programs, said the association applauds the move, which was made possible in part by an agreement reached with the makers of COVID-19.

“This victory for young people is a win for the hundreds of people who every year die needlessly,” Chartier said in a statement. “This public health victory should not have been possible. Unfortunately, this summer, our Canadian health minister once again rejected our call to make vaccine access mandatory for young people.”

The move comes a week after the New York state legislature passed a bill requiring children as young as 6 months old to get a flu shot, a move some suggested stemmed from the deadly swine flu pandemic in 2009. State law already required children 6 months old and older to get a flu shot before entering kindergarten, but flu shot coverage among those in kindergarten did not exceed the national average for the state until recently.

Canada, which had a deadly 2017-18 flu season, has been among the first nations to promote the vaccine’s use as mandatory. In the United States, states are able to decide on how to allocate vaccine funding.

In the United States, 15 states require inoculation of their youngest children, and nine have made the vaccines mandatory, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Global action on vaccination

Amid the recent criticism of the Canadian government, Canadian Public Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said “action is needed” to increase public vaccination rates.

Canada’s coverage of vaccinations is above the global average, she said, but “every effort must be made” to prevent seasonal and pandemic outbreaks, including her decision to remove COVID-19 from the national health program.

The decision is “the right choice for all Canadians” considering the cost of administering the vaccine for children who are too young to get a vaccine, Petitpas Taylor said. However, she added that the government will continue to support research on new vaccines to reduce the risk of disease and death.

In the US, requiring a flu shot for all schoolchildren has been an issue since 2013, when a Texas judge sided with a private school who had refused to administer the vaccine because of safety concerns. The court sided with the school’s view that the shots could “adversely affect the academic and developmental level of children attending that school.”

Since then, laws around the country have restricted schoolchildren’s access to the shot. Last year, the California Assembly passed a bill to require everyone to get vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella, but it never made it to the Senate floor after the California State Senate’s Republican leader, Jeff Miller, declined to allow a vote on the issue.

By Alex Rogers, CNN

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