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School vaccinations will protect against three major diseases

SIMCOE, ON, AUG. 22, 2008- The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is again offering an elementary school immunization program that will protect young people against three major diseases.

“We will be sending out information during the first week of school and we are urging parents to keep an eye out for this material,” explained Health Unit Clinical Services Program Coordinator Wendy Holmes. “We are offering students vaccinations against hepatitis B, meningococcal C and human papillomavirus.”

In September, all Grade 7 students and Grade 8 girls will take home information packages and consent forms from school. The packages provide details on the Health Unit’s 2008/09 school vaccine programs. Parents are asked to read the information, complete the consents and return them to the school by Sept. 5.

As part of the Grade 7 Immunization Program in Ontario, hepatitis B (hep-B) and meningococcal C (men-C) are two recommended vaccines. Girls in Grade 8 will also be able to take advantage of the publicly funded human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

School clinics in Haldimand and Norfolk for hep-B, a two-dose vaccine, will run in September and October 2008 and January and February 2009. Men-C vaccine will be given with the second dose of Hep-B in January and February 2009. School clinics for HPV, a three-dose vaccine, will run as follows: first dose September and October 2008, second dose November and December 2008 and the third dose March and April 2009. The clinics are staffed by Registered Nurses from the Health Unit.

Hep-B is a virus that can permanently damage the liver. The virus is spread through the blood and other body fluids from an infected person. It can also be spread through used needles, body/ear piercing or tattooing with dirty equipment. Hep-B cannot be passed through coughing, or from hugging or using the same eating utensils. People with the disease often become tired, feverish, lose their appetite, and sometimes have yellow coloring of their skin and eyes, called jaundice. A person can be a carrier of this virus and infect someone without knowing it.

In 1994 the Ministry of Health expanded the hep-B program to include routine immunization of all Grade 7 students. Children born after 1982 are eligible to be vaccinated against hep-B if they did not receive the vaccine in Grade 7.

Men-C is a disease is caused by a germ that is spread through the air from someone coughing or sneezing. This germ is in the saliva of an infected person, so it can be spread through kissing or sharing water bottles, straws, toothbrushes or lipstick. The germ can cause pneumonia, meningitis and can sometimes cause death or long-lasting complications.

The Health Unit started giving men-C shots in 2001 as part of the Grade 7 Immunization Program. Children born between 1992 and 2003 are eligible for the vaccine. Since 2003, this vaccine has been routinely given in infancy.

HPV is a very common sexually transmitted virus. It can infect anyone who has ever had a sexual encounter even without actual intercourse. There are about 130 different strains of the virus. Some are low risk and associated with genital wart infections. Some are high risk and associated with cervical and other cancers.

In September 2007, a voluntary school-based HPV immunization program was started. The HPV vaccine, Gardasil®, is free to all Grade 8 girls and protects against four types of the HPV virus, and those types are responsible for 70% of cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts. If not taken in Grade 8, the vaccine, approved by Health Canada for females nine to 26 years, must be purchased at a cost of $400 to $500. Gardasil® provides best protection when given before sexual activity begins.

Three out of four sexually active females will get HPV at some point in their lives. Often there are no signs and symptoms, so the infection may be passed on unknowingly. Even if vaccinated, women still need regular Pap tests.

For answers to questions about these or other vaccines, contact the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit at 519-426-6170 or 905-318-6623.

Media Contact:
Wendy Holmes, RN, BScN, CCHN (C)
Program Coordinator, Clinical Services
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
519-426-6170 Ext. 3152 or 905-318-6623 Ext. 3152

or

Maria Mendes Wood, RN, PHN, BScN
Vaccine Preventable Disease Program
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
519-426-6170 Ext. 3222 or 905-318-6623 Ext.3222