Calgary

Quadrivalent flu vaccines only available for children in Alberta

Children vaccinated against the flu will be getting additional protection thanks to new vaccines available for the first time this year, according to Alberta health officials.

Flu shot or nasal mist offers extra protection for children aged 6 months to 17 years, health officials say

While some provinces offer the new Quadrivalent vaccines to everyone, they're only being offered to children in Alberta. It is offered as either a shot or nasal mist. (Alan Hawes/The Post and Courier/Associated Press)

Children vaccinated against the flu will be getting additional protection thanks to new vaccines available for the first time this year, according to Alberta health officials.

Traditional flu shots and nasal mists protect against the H3N2 virus, the H1N1 virus and one strain of the influenza B virus.

The new Quadrivalent vaccines, which is available for the first time this year as a shot or nasal mist, immunize against a fourth type of flu.

"This vaccine contains an extra variety of the influenza B virus," said Dr. Glen Armstrong, professor of Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the University of Calgary's Cumming School of Medicine.

"This is a variety of B virus that particularly affects children and young adults."

Only children covered

Some provinces — including Manitoba — are making the new vaccines available to everyone, but in Alberta they're being offered only to children between six months and 17 years of age.

It provides kind of extra insurance that we're going to be OK, covering either influenza Bs that could be circulating.- Dr. Martin Lavoie, Alberta Chief Medical Officer

In the end, it came down to cost, according to Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Martin Lavoie.

"At the time when we placed the order it was significantly more, which made a huge difference on the total cost for the whole province," said Lavoie.

The decision wasn't made lightly.

Health officials decided their best option was to offer the new vaccines to children, who are most vulnerable to the influenza B strain that the new vaccines protect against. Alberta Health can then also still afford to purchase specialized vaccines for the elderly that provide an immunity boost.

It also left them with the cash to continue offering the more expensive nasal spray, an alternative to the traditional shot.

"We had to balance all the benefits of the different types of vaccines that we had to meet the needs of our population the best way possible and also living within our budget."

'Extra insurance'

Ultimately health officials would like to offer the new vaccines to all Albertans. 

And it may happen within the next couple of years, according to Lavoie, because the price of Quadrivalent vaccines is already coming down.

The benefit of immunizing all ages with the new products, according to Lavoie, will come during flu seasons when the vaccine isn't a good match with the virus circulating in the community.

"It provides kind of extra insurance that we're going to be OK, covering either influenza Bs that could be circulating. So if we have a mismatch, the Quadrivalet will be a better choice."

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