As respiratory infections increase, Nunavut restarting vaccine program for vulnerable infants

The Government of Nunavut said there's been an increase in respiratory illnesses and as a result will be resuming its vaccine program for vulnerable youth.

The Respiratory Syncytial Virus vaccine is available to infants with certain pre-existing health conditions

The Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit. The government of Nunavut announced in a news release that there has been an increase in respiratory infections and as a result is offering vaccines for respiratory syncytial virus to at risk infants. (CBC)

The Government of Nunavut is once again offering the Respiratory Syncytial Virus vaccines to infants with certain pre-existing health conditions. 

This comes as the territory announced in a news release there has been an increase in respiratory infections caused by Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and influenza. 

RSV is a contagious infection that attacks the respiratory tract.

The Nunavut government announced in the release it was immediately restarting its Palivizumab program — the RSV vaccine — which will supplement vaccinations offered earlier this year. 

Vaccines are available to children under 12 months who have: 

  • A chronic lung disease of prematurity, requiring supplemental oxygen or medical therapy.
  • Hemodynamically significant congenital heart disease requiring supplemental oxygen or ongoing medical therapy.

Children under 24 months who have:

  • Bronchopulmonary dysplasia or chronic lung disease of prematurity requiring ongoing supplemental oxygen or who were weaned off supplemental oxygen in the past three months.
  • Immunodeficiencies.
  • Down syndrome.
  • Cystic fibrosis.
  • Upper airway obstruction, or chronic pulmonary disease.
  • Or are severely immunocompromised. 

Those with chronic lung disease under 24 months are only eligible for the vaccine if they are on home oxygen, or been have hospitalized for prolonged periods of time.

Influenza vaccines are available for Nunavummiut six months and older at community health centres. 

The Nunavut government has offered the vaccines to vulnerable infants since 2002, though some have suggested the vaccine should be made more widely available.