While more Canadians are receiving the childhood influenza vaccine as it gets handed out in schools, the number of households getting a third dose of vaccine is low, potentially putting many children at risk.
The flu shot is the only way to get protection from the deadly flu. And there is much interest this year. This year’s vaccine is actually the best the Canadian government has ever had in terms of providing protection for Canadian children.
Don Nose, a pediatrician in Toronto, says the last time there was an extra high number of doses given was in 2012-13 when another “breathtaking” year of flu hit.
Between two to three per cent of households have not gotten a third dose of vaccine this year. Dr. Nose said “for a population the size of ours, one percent is not catastrophic.”
Research indicates getting a third dose of vaccine in childhood “can significantly enhance a person’s response to the vaccine.”
Through the vaccine, “the body acquires mechanisms that protect against complications of influenza and ultimately may mean a safer flu season for the following year.”
The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) says 84 per cent of Canadians have received the seasonal flu vaccine this year. About a third of Canadians have also received either a second, or additional dose of vaccine.
But there has been concern over the number of Ontario students being out sick when they should be in school.
Dr. John Spika, the immunization program chief at the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, says no child is out of school from being away from their home or flu vaccine.
“If parents don’t want their children to get vaccinated, they don’t have to vaccinate their children. But it’s important to say to parents, for their children to get vaccinated.”
Dr. Nose says that if the numbers of third doses of vaccine are truly low in Canada, that could mean some children aren’t getting the health protection they should be.
The Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario issued a preliminary report on the flu season in Canada. The report says the flu is currently widespread in every province in Canada.
Dr. Nose said the reports he is seeing point to a “dramatic increase in protection” from the vaccine.
Nose said influenza “is highly virulent, so getting the vaccine in childhood is the only way to have the best protection.”
He said flu complications have grown up greatly in children over the last few decades and cannot easily be cured by treatment with antibiotics.
“Even a small number of cases can be devastating for families, so getting a third dose of vaccine is absolutely crucial.”