Ontario government applauded for adopting broad protection strategy against meningococcal meningitis



    - All grade 7 students in Ontario will be provided Menactra(R) vaccine -

    WATERLOO, ON, June 2 /CNW/ - The Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada
(MRFC) applauds the government of Ontario's decision, announced yesterday, to
introduce a routine immunization program that will provide broad protection
against all four of the vaccine-preventable strains of invasive meningococcal
disease (IMD). Beginning in September, all grade 7 students in Ontario will be
offered a vaccine called Menactra(R).
    Meningococcal disease, such as meningococcal meningitis, is one of the
most devastating diseases in Canada. There are five common bacterial strains
that cause meningococcal disease (A, B, C, Y and W-135). Four of the five
strains are vaccine-preventable (A, C, Y and W-135). Strain C has been
responsible for outbreaks in the past and has been the main focus of public
health immunization programs in Canada. However, according to recent
statistics, Menactra(R) has the potential to prevent up to 80 % more cases of
meningococcal disease in adolescents (the population that is at highest risk
for vaccine-preventable IMD), than the monovalent meningococcal conjugate C
vaccine.
    "It is important for children and adolescents to be protected against all
four vaccine-preventable strains," said Dr. Saul Greenberg, Associate
Professor of Pediatrics and Community Pediatrician. "We continue to see cases
of meningococcal disease, which could have been prevented with the routine use
of Menactra(R). The government has made a wise decision for protecting the
health of adolescents."
    Ontario's decision to fund this vaccine for Grade 7 students comes on the
heels of a recent statement issued by the National Advisory Committee on
Immunization (NACI) which is now recommending that a dose of meningococcal
conjugate vaccine be offered in early adolescence, ideally around 12 years of
age, even if the adolescent was previously vaccinated as part of a routine
infant or toddler vaccination program.
    Routine meningococcal C programs have had a positive impact on reducing
the number of cases caused by strain C. However, children and adolescents were
still vulnerable to the other vaccine-preventable strains, which Menactra(R)
protects against. New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and the Northwest
Territories have also implemented routine Menactra(R) adolescent immunization
programs.
    "As a parent personally affected by this disease, I am pleased with
Ontario's decision to provide funding for broad protection against the four
vaccine-preventable strains of meningococcal meningitis," said Katie Grassie,
Keswick, Ontario resident. "My son, Keaton, contracted meningococcal
meningitis strain Y. While my son survived, both of his lower legs had to be
amputated. At the time of Keaton's illness, our family didn't have the choice
of broad protection against the four vaccine-preventable strains of
meningococcal meningitis. From one family to another, I urge all parents to
become informed about this devastating disease and talk to their doctor about
broad protection for their family."
    "I am encouraged with Ontario's announcement because it recognizes the
need to protect against other strains of meningitis beyond strain C," said
Colin Campbell from British Columbia, whose 15-year-old son, Brodie,
contracted meningococcal meningitis and died in less than 48 hours. "Despite
the fact that Brodie had been vaccinated for the Group C meningococcal strain,
he died from the Group Y strain. Afterwards, my wife and I learned that this
could have been prevented if Brodie had been given a vaccine that provides
protection against all four vaccine-preventable strains of meningitis."
    An average of four Canadians develops meningococcal disease each week.
The disease can cause serious illness, long-term disabilities such as
amputation and neurological damage, and can even be fatal. Even with timely
and appropriate medical care, approximately one in 10 individuals who contract
the disease will die. Death can occur within 24-48 hours after the onset of
symptoms in a previously healthy individual. Of those who survive, up to one
in five suffers permanent disabilities.
    "The Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada applauds the government of
Ontario for acknowledging the need for broad protection against meningococcal
disease," said Kathryn Blain, founder of the Meningitis Research Foundation of
Canada and a mother who lost her son, Michael Longo, to meningitis. "This
acknowledgment is a positive step. Families with children of all ages should
be aware of this deadly disease and protect themselves appropriately."
    For more information about broad protection against meningococcal
disease, parents should talk to their doctor.

    About the Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada

    The Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada (MRFC) was established in
1998 after a mother suddenly lost her otherwise healthy son to the disease.
The mission of the foundation is to prevent death and disability from
meningitis and other infections of the central nervous system. Through
education the MRFC provides support to patients and their families affected by
meningitis; increases public awareness of meningitis; and promotes better
understanding of the disease among healthcare professionals. The MRFC also
provides funds for research into improved diagnosis, treatment, and prevention
of meningitis.





For further information:

For further information: Kathryn Blain, Founder and Chair, Meningitis
Research Foundation of Canada, Tel: 1-800-643-1303, Email: fund@meningitis.ca;
Laine Jaremey, MS&L, Tel: (416) 847-1321, Email:
Laine.Jaremey@mslworldwide.com

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Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada

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