Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut September 19, 2012 - 10:30 am

Nunavut plans to restart TB vaccination program for babies

“We have an adequate supply for now”

SAMANTHA DAWSON
Nunavut plans to restart its tuberculosis vaccination program for infants in October, which can prevent them from infection with TB bacteria, shown here. The Bacille Calmette-Guérin or BCG vaccine offers an 80 per cent protection against TB for 15 years. (FILE IMAGE)
Nunavut plans to restart its tuberculosis vaccination program for infants in October, which can prevent them from infection with TB bacteria, shown here. The Bacille Calmette-Guérin or BCG vaccine offers an 80 per cent protection against TB for 15 years. (FILE IMAGE)

Nunavut is set to receive 500 replacement vials of the BCG vaccine, which will be offered to all newborns in the territory to protect them against the most dangerous forms of tuberculosis.

The vaccination program will start next month, said Maureen Baikie, deputy chief medical officer of health for Nunavut.

This is after the territory ended its vaccination program this past June after the manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur voluntarily recalled 4,700 vials of the product.

The new vaccine is coming from a supplier in Japan, and “each vial is a multi-dose so it can do more than one baby,” Baikie said.

Since the vaccine recall, there have been no cases of TB in the newborns who would have been vaccinated, she said.

Normally all babies born in the territory are offered the Bacille Calmette-Guérin or BCG vaccine, which offers an 80 per cent protection against TB for 15 years. 

The vaccine doesn’t prevent TB in all cases, but it helps to prevent the more serious TB that children might get, such as TB-related meningitis.

The vaccine is only one part of Nunavut’s TB program, Baikie said.

Other methods include careful contact tracing and administering a drug that can keep infected babies from developing active TB.

“The idea is that you would find cases early and get them treated,” she said.

TB, an infectious bacterial disease, is highly contagious and, while it is curable with antibiotic treatment, it can be fatal if left untreated.

Currently, the BCG vaccination program, like other programs is being reviewed, said Baikie.

While they have “an adequate supply for now,” she couldn’t say how long the 500 vials will last. This depends on how many babies in a community can be treated per vial.

Nunavut sees about 800 births a year.

However, with a new supplier, more vaccine doses can be ordered as needed, Baikie said.

Use of the BCG vaccine has been discontinued in most of southern Canada, where TB is rare.

But it continues to be used in regions where the TB infection rate is high, such as Nunavik, where public health officials wanted to vaccinate children born before 2004 in Kangiqsualujjuaq as part of its efforts to fight an outbreak in that Ungava Bay community.

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