Current Problems

Health (18-24)

Denial of medicine for Inuit Babies

November 15, 2021

Nunatsiaq News – Dr. Anna Banerji, an associate professor at the University of Toronto, who works in public health, pediatrics and infectious diseases, said Nunavut’s Health Department is not doing enough to protect Inuit babies from RSV. She said all Inuit babies should be considered high risk since Inuit babies born at full term still have higher rates of hospital admissions with RSV than babies in the south who are born early or are high risk for other reasons.
Both Patterson and Banerji said factors like overcrowded housing and food insecurity make Inuit babies more at risk of contracting or developing severe complications from RSV or other viruses. Banerji said having unequal access to health care in some remote communities, and kids being exposed to second-hand smoke, are also risk factors.
In 2009, the Canadian Pediatric Association recommended all Inuit babies get the antibodies to protect them from RSV. That same year, Banerji published a study that states Nunavut has the highest hospitalization rates for RSV in the world. With cases of a respiratory virus rising across the world, those considered high risk in Nunavut will get antibodies a month ahead of schedule this year. In Nunavut and the rest of Canada only those deemed high risk, like preterm babies, are given the antibodies, called Palivizumab, to reduce the risk of hospitalization.
Banerji said it would be more cost-effective to give all babies the RSV antibodies than paying for hospital admissions and air travel to receive medical care.