Immunologist tears into Nova Scotia over lack of rotavirus vaccination program

Click to play video: 'Local Doctor calling for province to cover rotavirus vaccination program'
Local Doctor calling for province to cover rotavirus vaccination program
WATCH: Global News Morning chats with Immunologist Scott Halperin about his push to get the province to cover an immunization program for a virus that can cause severe diarrhea in babies and children – Jun 10, 2019

An immunologist at the IWK Health Centre is calling on the Nova Scotia government to create an immunization program for a virus that causes severe diarrhea in children and infants.

Dr. Scott Halperin says it is “unconscionable” that Nova Scotia is the only province and territory in Canada to not have a publicly funded program in place.

“The vaccine is available, it’s very safe and it’s effective and it can prevent the severe parts of the rotavirus,” Halperin told Global News Morning on Monday.

READ MORE: New Brunswick makes publicly funded rotavirus vaccine available for children

In other provinces, the rotavirus vaccine is part of the routine vaccinations given to young infants. It doesn’t even require a needle and is instead administered orally.

Halperin says rotavirus is the most common virus that causes diarrhea in young infants and most children will have experienced it by the time they’re two years old.

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“Usually, parents don’t know that it’s rotavirus. They just know that the baby has vomiting and diarrhea and can get very sick,” said Halperin.

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In the most severe cases, children can become dehydrated and are taken to the emergency room. Some are even admitted to the intensive care unit.

Halperin says the vaccine is recommended by Canada’s advisory board on immunization and has even been recommended by Nova Scotia’s Department of Health.

“It just hasn’t made the cut, each year in the budget for the last several years,” he said.

WATCH: Mother urges parents to give babies rotavirus vaccine

Click to play video: 'Mother urges parents to give babies rotavirus vaccine'
Mother urges parents to give babies rotavirus vaccine

Halperin says that at cost of $75 per vaccine he estimates that the program would cost Nova Scotia roughly $1,000,000 a year.

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For parents to pay out-of-pocket he says it’d likely set them back $150.

“You can do that and many family doctors will say ‘if you can afford it go ahead and pay for it’ but most Nova Scotians feel that if the government doesn’t think it should be funded then they shouldn’t get it,” he said.

“So we’re giving a very mixed message when most provinces are saying ‘you should get it’ but Nova Scotia seems to be saying ‘don’t.'”

The Nova Scotia Department of Health says that the department considers what new coverage can be provided each year.

“A decision has not yet been made with regards to coverage of the rotavirus vaccine,” wrote Andrew Prepper, a spokesperson for the department on Monday.

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