15 October 2015
The Ontario government has announced that it will cover the cost of a nasal spray flu vaccine for children in a bid to get more young people protected without having to expose them to the fear and anxiety often caused by needle injections.
“This is going to make it virtually painless to get the flu vaccine if you’re a child or a youth,” said Health Minister Eric Hoskins.
Hoskins said the spray form of the vaccine will be paid for by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) for children aged two to 17, once the provincial flu vaccination program is introduced on Oct. 26.
Nasal vaccinations can be more effective than conventional injections since the spray contains live virus, not just the virus component found in the injected form of the vaccine.
“It stimulates an even stronger immune response,” said Dr. Andrew Simor, of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.
And this year, experts suggest the flu vaccine is likely to be very effective. The province says both the new nasal spray vaccine and the new injection vaccine offer broader protection this year, made to protect against four flu viruses rather than three.
“Current indications suggest a good match, based on what we’ve seen in the southern hemisphere,” Simor said.
Last year’s vaccine was seen as ineffective after it was determined to be a serious mismatch with the aggressive H3N2 strain of the flu that ended up dominating last season. Flu vaccines are modified each year based on what medical experts expect to be that season’s dominant strain of influenza.
But even in years when the vaccine is less effective, experts say it’s still important for children to be immunized.
“It does have the ability to protect against serious complications like pneumonia, the need for hospitalization and in highest-risk populations, is protective against dying from influenza,” Simor said.
Approximately 3,500 Canadians die due to complications caused by the flu each year.
With a report from Pauline Chan