Written by D and a for CNN Toronto, Canada
Only a handful of Canadian provinces currently require pharmacists to offer the flu shot to young children, leaving some parents to make choices on whether to inoculate their children.
But that may be about to change, as Canadian Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor announced on Thursday that she plans to introduce legislation in the fall to allow pharmacists to give the shots to children as young as two years old.
Andrew Pyle, the lead advisor for programs at the Canadian Immunization Advisory Centre, told CNN that he anticipates the vaccination program to go into effect within a few weeks.
“It’s been a long time coming. A lot of effort has gone into ensuring that this is the best move for Canada, and for Canada’s kids, to get universal vaccination against the flu,” Pyle said.
Canada reported seven flu-related deaths in its provinces during the 2018-19 flu season.
Pyle said that an important consideration in introducing the new vaccine program is how it affects children’s health.
“Parents should be assured that the [safety] of the [shot] is the same as the already-approved vaccine, and probably safer,” he said.
Pyle said the Canadian Public Health Agency has conducted more than 160,000 tests on the flu vaccine and found it to be effective.
Canada did not receive influenza vaccine last season, but there was a fair amount of supply available, Pyle said.
“Canada is the single largest production (sic) base in the world. It’s not a question of if but a question of when.”
Eileen Savage, executive director of the Flu Vaccine Adherence Network in Canada, voiced her optimism about the new program.
“As a group of health practitioners and organizations in Canada, we’ve done a lot of research on giving the vaccine in different ways to children from ages 0 to 5, to see if there is some variation in uptake of the flu vaccine in that age group, and we found that there is — so now we are focusing our efforts in getting universal influenza vaccination for all children,” Savage said.
There are several reasons why parents have been hesitant to have their children immunized, she said.
“Parents have complained that the vaccination is too expensive — we will decrease the price,” Savage said. “Parents have complained about getting the flu shot and how severe and long-lasting it is.”
Savage added that having the new vaccine program will help correct misinformation.
“Parents can go to their pharmacists, and the pharmacists will understand how well the vaccine is working and how it’s safer,” Savage said.
“Parents are thinking a lot about these things and still not hearing the facts. For this year, we’ll do all the data and do all the right things to make sure everybody who needs a flu vaccine is able to get one.”