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USask pediatric infectious disease specialist to participate in national vaccine conference

Dr. Rupesh Chawla spoke about the Immunization awareness week conference in Ottawa. Global News/ File

Dr. Rupesh Chawla, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with the University of Saskatchewan, says a conference is happening in Ottawa next week to discuss what new vaccines will be available in the coming years.

It’s part of National Immunization Awareness Week, which begins on Monday.

“I think a variety of vaccine topics will be discussed in Ottawa during the Canadian Immunization Conference,” Chawla said.

The conference runs from April 25-27.

He said topics like respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, will be discussed, as well as what is happening with COVID-19, and what is going on with the anti-bacterial vaccine for pneumococcal pneumonia.

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He said influenza and RSV were detrimental to Saskatchewan’s health-care system.

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“For us in Saskatchewan, probably the biggest two were RSV and influenza, which by far were overwhelming the system. COVID-19 certainly was a component of it, Omicron certainly saw an increase in younger kids getting admitted to hospital.”

He said those numbers were much higher than previous years.

Chawla anticipates the discussion around how to approach COVID-19 in the coming years to be a highly debated topic at the conference, noting some experts want to approach it from an “everyone gets vaccinated” standpoint, while others are debating whether the focus should shift to those who are immuno-compromised.

“My favour is that we go towards a more high risk approach, and those patients who are going to be at more risk of being admitted.”

He added that approach can vary at different times.

“The everyone approach is great, but it’s very difficult to, as you can see, carry on in a yearly, ongoing basis.”

He said that’s not the case for the influenza shot though, noting that everyone getting their flu shot is very important.

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“Anyone over the age of six months can get their influenza vaccination.”

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