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Health unit urging students to get vaccinated

Each year, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care provides hepatitis B, meningococcal, and human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccines free to eligible students in Ontario.

Students are vaccinated by public health nurses from the Northwestern Health Unit at school-based clinics.

Donna Stanley, manager of infectious diseases at the health unit, strongly recommends all eligible students get vaccinated.

“Immunization is a safe and effective way to prevent these very serious and potentially fatal diseases,” she said.

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that can cause permanent liver damage, liver cancer, and sometimes death. It spreads from person to person through blood and body fluids.

At least half of all people infected have no symptoms, and unknowingly can spread the virus to others.

The hepatitis B vaccine is more than 90 percent effective in preventing infection.

Meningococcal disease is caused by bacteria that people can carry in their nose and throat without feeling sick. But if these germs get into the fluid and lining around the brain or the bloodstream, they can cause serious illness that can result in loss of hearing, mental impairment, limb amputations, and death.

The disease can be passed through activities like kissing or sharing a drink.

Meningococcal vaccine provides effective protection against four types of meningococcal bacteria.

HPV is a very common virus transmitted through sexual activity. It causes genital warts, cervical abnormalities, as well as cervical, vaginal, vulva, and anal cancers.

About 70 percent of adults will have at least one HPV infection in their lifetime.

The HPV vaccine has been proven to be almost 100 percent effective in preventing infections in four HPV types.

Grade 7 students are eligible for one dose of meningococcal vaccine and two doses of the hepatitis B vaccine over a six-month period.

Grade 8 female students are eligible for three doses of the HPV vaccine over the school year.

This year, the ministry also is offering free HPV vaccine to females who attended Grade 8 since 2007-08 but have not yet had the vaccine or completed their series.

Further information and consent forms will be sent home to parents before clinics are held in schools.

If you have questions about the school immunization programs in your community, contact your local Northwestern Health Unit office.

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