Rotavirus vaccine for children to be covered in Alberta

The province plans to start vaccinating young children against the most common form of severe gastroenteritis.

Alberta Health to fund protection from common cause of severe gastroenteritis

Young children in Alberta will soon be vaccinated for another common childhood bug. Rotavirus causes diarrhea, fever and vomiting in babies and young children. (Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images)

The province plans to start vaccinating young children against the most common form of severe gastroenteritis, according to a senior health official.

Rotavirus causes diarrhea, vomiting and fever in babies and young children. It can lead to rapid dehydration and hospitalization.

Dr. Gerry Predy, a senior medical officer of health with Alberta Health Services, says the vaccine — which is given orally — will be added to the province's free course of childhood immunizations.

"It's one of the commonest causes of hospitalization with diarrhea. So that's the whole purpose of having a vaccination program,” said Predy.

But there seems to be some confusion about the change at Alberta Health, and a date for introducing the vaccination has not yet been set. 

"The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is scheduled to review and provide updated guidance on rotavirus vaccines in February 2015," Alberta's chief medical officer Dr. James Talbot said in a statement.

"Alberta Health will use these recommendations to determine if our immunization program should be updated. A potential date for inclusion of the rotavirus vaccine will be finalized once all available research and evidence has been reviewed." 

By the time they reach five years old, most children have had at least one bout of the bug.

Dr. Glen Armstrong, a microbiologist at the University of Calgary, said the virus can lead to rapid dehydration.

“This is definitely a situation where, if you look at the cost of treating the children that get the infection versus the cost of giving them the vaccine which is easy to administer, really the payback is quite considerable.”


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