Alberta launches meningitis plan for teens

  • Feb. 2, 2011 3:00 p.m.

A provincewide immunization program has been launched to protect adolescents from meningococcal disease.

The $2-million immunization program will provide the meningococcal conjugate vaccine to up to 40,000 students in Grade 9 through school-based clinics. The vaccine will protect against four different strains of meningococcal disease and will become part of the annual immunization program offered to Alberta adolescents.

The risk of spreading meningococcal disease increases during adolescence through the sharing of food, drinks, lipstick, lip balm, drinking straws, cigarettes and water bottles. This bacterium is spread through the saliva and is present in the nose and throat.

“Invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) is a serious illness that can cause severe complications,” said Andre Corriveau, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health. “Each year we see a number of cases of meningitis and many of these cases lead to hospitalization. We believe this immunization program will go a long way to protect adolescents who are at highest risk of contracting meningitis.”

The school-based meningococcal immunization program is expected to result in high numbers of students completing the immunization. In Alberta, the Grade 9 diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis immunization program has shown successful results with more than 90 per cent of the students being immunized.