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The Manitoba government is making changes to protect infants and children from meningococcal disease

Manitoba make changes to protect infants and children from Meningococcal disease
Meningococcal disease

By: Staff Writer I Winnipeg Tribune

Winnipeg, February 2, 2024 - In a bid to safeguard infants and children from the grave threats posed by meningococcal disease, Manitoba's public health officials have unveiled a comprehensive update to the routine immunization program. Health, Seniors, and Long-Term Care Minister Uzoma Asagwara made the announcement, emphasizing the urgency of broader immunity to counteract the severe outcomes of this infection.

The disease is primarily caused by five strains of the meningococcal bacteria: A, B, C, Y, and W. Presently, Manitoba recommends a meningococcal vaccine for infants at 12 months, protecting against type C bacteria. However, effective March 1, the province will introduce a quadrivalent vaccine that shields against four meningococcal bacteria types, including the recently identified W type responsible for a cluster of cases in Manitoba.

Children below the age of four face the highest risk of severe illness from meningococcal disease. To facilitate this update, a catch-up campaign will extend the quadrivalent vaccine to 12-month-old infants who haven't received a meningococcal vaccine, children born between January 1, 2020, and February 28, 2023, who missed immunization due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and those who were previously vaccinated against type C bacteria, offering additional protection. These children can safely receive the quadrivalent vaccine, spaced at least four weeks apart from their last dose.

Parents and caregivers with 12-month-old infants scheduled for vaccination before March 1 are encouraged to consult their healthcare providers regarding these changes.

Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, strongly advises caregivers to opt for the quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine, stressing the role of vaccinations in protecting against serious infections. Meningococcal infections pose particular dangers to young children.

The province has dispatched information to healthcare providers regarding these updates and the vaccine's availability in medical clinics and public health offices. In June, parents of eligible children born within the specified timeframe will receive reminders to book their child's vaccination.

Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection that spreads through the air, often causing severe and potentially life-threatening infections in the brain and blood. Even with prompt medical intervention, it proves fatal in 10% of cases, leaving 20% with permanent disabilities. Manitoba has witnessed a recent surge in invasive meningococcal disease cases, with nine identified cases, including one fatality, since December 21, 2023. This comprehensive vaccine update seeks to mitigate these risks and ensure the health and safety of Manitoba's youngest residents.


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