On Monday, Health Canada said it has approved a new vaccine against whooping cough for young children. It is the first new vaccine in Canada that targets children who are five to 11 years old. While the vaccine’s approval in this age group was already given the green light, the Food and Drug Review and the Canadian Vaccine Alliance recommended that the company develop a new formulation to give it to infants younger than one. Parents and doctors will now be able to buy the vaccine at retail stores for the first time.
In a news release announcing the approval, Health Canada said it approved the vaccine, called COVID-19, due to progress in finding better and easier ways to diagnose the disease, as well as research published in the journal Vaccine that says it could be more effective than other current vaccines for this age group. The agency said the vaccine is effective for eight weeks in three doses and is safe for children of all ages. It will cost $24.95 for a single dose and $63.95 for a two-dose series.
The decision comes at a time when the country is dealing with a severe outbreak of whooping cough, which has become particularly severe in Western Canada. In Ontario, there have been more than 600 confirmed cases of whooping cough reported this year as of Feb. 27. Whooping cough is also known as pertussis, and is caused by bacteria that live on the respiratory tract. When a person has the disease, they are contagious days before and after the infection and they may experience either a “whooping” cough or a “cerebral contracture.”
According to Health Canada, about 900 new cases of whooping cough were reported in Canada each year before the introduction of vaccines in the 1960s. That number has dropped to 50 annually since 1991. But whooping cough cases are now on the rise again in many parts of the country. Currently, a countrywide outbreak is underway in British Columbia.