Written by Staff Writer Ellen Breslau, CNN
Toronto Public Health has begun planning for next year’s COVID-19 — the national COVID: vaccinations for otherwise untreatable diseases — of children aged 5 to 11.
This year, the public health department vaccinated 11,000 children over the age of 5 for one of those illnesses — whooping cough — with a nasal spray injection. Next year, the department will focus on another illness — pneumococcal pneumonia — and is seeking vaccines from pharmaceutical companies to create a vaccination program.
“Pneumococcal disease is a serious vaccine-preventable infection that results in pneumonia, breathing difficulty and can be life-threatening in very young children and adults,” said Dr. Zachary Anstead, a public health physician at the public health department, in a statement.
The department said it is also exploring solutions to vaccinate children aged 6 to 9 and up, starting in 2020.
“The COVID program (is) in response to what public health officials believe are escalating numbers of deaths of children and young adults in Canada and around the world from the common bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumoniae) caused by the Losmar.”
The bacteria is responsible for a number of illnesses, including a painful cough, encephalitis and cholera, according to the public health department. In 2017, more than 1,000 Canadians under 5 years old and several young adults between 19 and 30 died from pneumonia caused by S. pneumoniae bacteria, according to the Canadian Press.
“The challenge we face with pneumococcal disease is that, until recently, vaccine-preventable pneumococcal infections have been virtually eliminated in Canada,” said Dr. Anstead. “As a result, it’s not uncommon for a small proportion of a group of people — including young children and young adults who don’t have immunity to the bacterium — to contract the infection and die. But the majority of people infected with pneumococcal disease who survive recover and go on to lead healthy, productive lives.”
The agency said it is working to address this issue, particularly among children and young adults who do not have immunity to the bacterium. It will allow grandparents to participate in vaccination campaigns for their grandchildren, and also try to retain the nasal-spray vaccines (called DTaP) that have become popular in recent years.