07/24/2012 06:30 EDT | Updated 09/23/2012 05:12 EDT

Alberta to give 2nd vaccine against chicken pox to kids aged four and six

EDMONTON - Alberta Health is making a second dose of the chicken pox vaccine available for free to all preschool children starting next month.

The vaccine will be combined with the second dose of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine scheduled for children between the ages of four and six.

The initial dose of this vaccine is given to children at 12 months of age.

Health Minister Fred Horne says the vaccine helps to not only protect the young children receiving the immunization, it also protects family members who are at a heightened risk, such as a pregnant mother, a younger sibling or an older grandparent.

Dr. James Talbot, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, says the second dose will be combined with the regularly scheduled measles, mumps and rubella vaccine as a way to make it easy for families to take advantage of this additional protection for their children.

While most people recover from the disease with no lasting effects, chicken pox can be very serious and even life-threatening to newborn babies, adults, and those who have weak immune systems.