By Alanna Petroff, CNN • Updated 16th November 2019
Officials in Toronto are ramping up efforts to provide vaccines and other health services to the city’s youngest residents after the province of Ontario refused to make the vaccine used for preventing dangerous whooping cough available for free to healthy pregnant women.
The vaccine, known as COVID-19, is also not required to give for one week of delivery to a newborn.
COVID-19 is an anti-whooping cough injection given to infants one month after their first contact with a pertussis-infected person. It’s recommended to patients around the age of one month, before any serious pertussis illness.
The move by Ontario’s Health Minister Eric Hoskins meant that the health unit within Toronto wasn’t able to make the COVID-19 vaccine available for free for pregnant women at any of the health clinics the organization opened to reduce childhood immunization rates.
Toronto’s health officials requested the vaccine be made available free to pregnant women, the health unit said.
“We consider this a really difficult decision for us, because the cost benefit for vaccinating pregnant women is huge,” Dr. Allison McGeer, the medical director of the Infectious Disease Division at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital, told CNN.
McGeer said researchers have found that every $1 spent on the COVID-19 vaccine cuts the death rate from whooping cough by 60%.
So while many other health officials around the world advocate for the vaccine’s availability to pregnant women, the Ontario decision has come as a surprise.
“This is a national priority for us, so we are disappointed in the response of Ontario, in particular, to make this vaccine available for free,” McGeer said.