Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia last province to pay to immunize infants against common virus

Nova Scotia is joining every other province in Canada to pay to immunize babies against a common virus. The rotavirus vaccine will be available for free to infants starting in January.

Offering oral vaccine to about 7,900 babies born in Nova Scotia every year will cost $200,000

Babies take the rotavirus vaccine orally in the first four to six months. (CBC)

Starting in January, parents of newborns will no longer have to pay to immunize their children against a highly infectious and common virus.

Nova Scotia will be the last province in Canada to publicly fund the rotavirus vaccine.

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, said the vaccine has been recommended by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization for years.

"There's always a lot of competing priorities in the health system [and] we've finally been able to move forward on rotavirus," he said. "It's a good news story."

Rotavirus, a gastrointestinal illness, is highly contagious and easily transmitted.

Strang said many children with the illness require medical attention.

"We have significant numbers of children requiring doctors' office visits, emergency room visits, even hospitalizations," he said. "So we'll see a significant impact of decreased illness because of this vaccine being implemented."

He could not estimate whether those savings would offset the cost of supplying the vaccine, nor could he say why it took so long for the province to decide to cover the cost.

Oral vaccine taken in the first six months

"There's always a huge range of competing priorities in the health-care system and we've fortunately been able to make this one come to the top now," said Strang.

Starting in 2020, parents who immunize their children will be able to take their babies to a primary care provider, such as a physician or nurse, to get their routine immunizations at two, four and six months.

The oral vaccine will be administered along with regularly scheduled public vaccines, including those that protect against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio and influenza.

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