Saskatchewan is expanding its infant immunization program by adding a rotavirus vaccine (ROTARIXTM) to its routine childhood immunization schedule this fall. ROTARIXTM is a two-dose oral vaccine series that will be given to infants between six weeks and eight months of age.
“Immunizations play an important role in protecting the population against disease and we are pleased to offer this new vaccine to some of our youngest residents,” Health Minister Dustin Duncan says.
The vaccine will be offered starting November 1, 2012, at the regular two and four month immunization appointments, in addition to the current publicly-funded vaccines for infants that are routinely offered by public health nurses.
“Rotavirus is a highly communicable, common diarrheal illness that affects all ages but is most prevalent in infants and young children,” Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab adds. “Children under two years face the most severe complications, and the vaccine is a safe and effective way to protect them against rotavirus infection.”
In Saskatchewan, it is estimated that Rotavirus results in 9,000 episodes of illness in infants on a yearly basis, with 1,400 physician visits, 800 Emergency Room visits and 200 hospitalizations.
Rotavirus causes inflammation of the stomach and intestines and is sometimes called gastroenteritis. Symptoms of rotavirus illness generally include several days of vomiting, diarrhea and fever. Loss of body fluids often results in dehydration that may require hospitalization. Rotavirus is spread easily from children who are infected to other children, often through contaminated hands and objects such as toys.