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NEWS RELEASE · 5th May 2010
M. of Healthy Living & Sport
Beginning this June, British Columbia's routine childhood immunization program will include Prevnar 13, a vaccine that offers protection against 13 strains of pneumococcal disease, announced Healthy Living and Sport Minister Ida Chong.

"The vaccine and immunization programs offered in B.C. really are one of the best ways that we can ensure British Columbians stay healthy and avoid many preventable and serious diseases," said Chong. "In addition to better protecting B.C.'s youth against pneumococcal disease, the switch to Prevnar 13 is estimated to save millions of dollars in related disease costs."

Approved by Health Canada late last year, Prevnar 13 is the successor to Prevnar 7, which protects against seven strains of disease-causing bacteria and has been administered in B.C. since 2003 as part of a child's routine immunizations. The new vaccine protects against six additional types of bacteria that infect the blood, middle ear, the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, and other parts of the body.

"Pneumococcal disease can cause serious and life-threatening infections, such as meningitis, so it only makes good public health sense for B.C. to make the move to Prevnar 13 and offer more complete protection against this disease," said provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall. "Vaccines are very effective in preventing disease and provide us with more health and cost benefits than any other prevention program."

As part of the routine immunization program in B.C., kids will receive three shots of pneumococcal vaccine - at two, four and 12 months of age. Since the introduction of this vaccine, pneumococcal rates in children under five years old have dropped by more than 70 per cent.

"In the past three years in B.C., 90 cases of invasive pneumococcal disease were reported in children under five years old," said Dr. Monika Naus, director of immunization programs at the BC Centre for Disease Control. "Almost half of these cases were due to the six strains against which Prevnar 13 offers protection. These cases can now be avoided."

Pneumococcal disease is caused by bacteria which attack different parts of the body and is spread from one person to another by coughing, sneezing or close face-to-face contact. It can also be spread through saliva or spit when people share things like food and drinks.

For more information on pneumococcal disease and vaccines visit www.bccdc.ca and www.immunizebc.ca.