Ontario Premier Wynne promises to vaccinate kids in group at highest risk of measles

Ontario is poised to vaccinate kids in the age range of five to 11 who fall into a federal health program as soon as first-child doses of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine arrive in bulk from India.

Sitting beside Health Minister Eric Hoskins, with an unidentified child at his side, as the minister waved pink, quivering fingers on the inhaler, Health Canada announced on Friday that there will be a mass production of first-child MMR vaccinations from the provinces. The vaccines should arrive next month.

“We expect our Canadian-made first-child vaccines to be produced by the end of April,” said Health Canada spokeswoman Sophie Kleeman. “The supply of first-child vaccines will only be a matter of time.”

While Alberta and some jurisdictions in the United States are also in the process of vaccinating children in their federally funded program, it is believed to be the first time the first-child vaccine has been promised to Canada’s most populous province.

Health Canada had been working to ensure enough doses for the program was on track and said Friday they are now confident this will be the case.

“All of the sites in Ontario that will be offering vaccinations are in receipt of first-child vaccines,” Kleeman said.

The earliest shots could be available is April 6.

The provincial move to offer the shots is part of a strategy to cut down on outbreaks of measles and other diseases.

The Ontario government has been on the lookout for a vaccine that would allow for mass vaccinations in recent months.

It is promising shots in the group of children that is at the highest risk of contracting measles. The plan is to distribute first-child shots to the five-11 year olds who are eligible for Canada’s children’s immunization program, which reimburses pharmacists for the costs of administering vaccines.

The measles-mumps-rubella vaccine is not currently routinely included in this group.

About 1,000 cases of measles, mostly in the United States, have been reported in Canada over the past few months.

The virus travels in infected droplets from unvaccinated people through the air and can be tracked by other infected people who then share food or drinks.

Measles thrives in countries that don’t have proper immunization programs.

Last year, about 83 percent of Canadians said they were getting the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. This year, it’s 73 percent, according to Statistics Canada.

Most provinces began phasing out the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine with a transition plan more than a decade ago.

But the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had not issued this specific policy until February, when it encouraged states to have “wide-scale and timely” measles-mumps-rubella vaccination.

Hoskins had already announced the program. It will cover children at certain low-income locations as well as those living in public housing.

“Over the next month, the province will continue to work with practitioners to promote vaccination of children in the older age groups,” Hoskins said.

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