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Universal vaccination associated with decreased Canadian cases of most deadly strain of meningitis
Date:3/2/2009

Universal childhood vaccination against meningococcal C appears to reduce Canadian incidence of the most deadly strain of bacterial meningitis, reports new research published in the March issue of The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal.

The Men C vaccine was introduced as part of universal immunization programs for children in Quebec and Alberta in 2002 and in British Columbia and Prince Edward Island in 2003.

By 2005, all Canadian provinces included Men C vaccine as part of routine childhood vaccinations. Staggered implementation across Canada offered researchers the opportunity to evaluate the universal vaccination program.

"There was a dramatic decline in provinces with the early immunization program, suggesting the program works," says Dr. Julie Bettinger, the study's lead author.

Dr. Bettinger is a scientist in the Vaccine Evaluation Centre at the Child & Family Research Institute and assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of British Columbia.

Prior to Men C universal vaccination, BC, Alberta, and Quebec had rates of meningococcal C disease that were nearly 4.5 times higher than the rest of Canada. The study reports that today these provinces have the lowest rates in Canada, from 0.41 cases per 100,000 people in 2002 down to 0.07 per 100,000 in 2006. The provinces with later introduction of universal Men C vaccination showed no major changes in the one year of follow up study, with annual rates of meningococcal C at 0.08 per 100,000 people in 2006.

"The numbers may seem small, but even one case of the disease is one too many," says Dr. Bettinger. "It can strike without warning and cause death or permanent physical or neurological disability. Because meningococcal infection is spread by saliva through coughing, sneezing, and kissing, it has the potential to become an epidemic. Universal vaccination is critical to control disease and prevent epidemics."

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Contact: Jennifer Kohm
jkohm@cw.bc.ca
604-875-2401
Child & Family Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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