In Canada, population-wide immunization has allowed a spectacular reduction in the transmission of many infectious diseases. In fact, in 1991, we finally conquered the highly infectious polio, also known as poliomyelitis, eradicating it from the North American continent. In comparison, the year 1959 witnessed 1,000 Canadians infected with polio, losing 100 of them to the disease. Elsewhere in the world, infectious diseases still wreak havoc on the population. With immigration and travels to foreign countries continuously rising, we should not let our guards down when it comes to microbes! Although in Canada, most children are immunized, many still have not received all the recommended vaccines.
Vaccines allow the immune system to develop antibodies in order to react more quickly when hit with an infection. It is as if we showed the police (immune system) the photo of a dangerous criminal (disease). If the criminal enters the city (human body), the police can recognize and arrest him quickly even before he commits a crime, because they will have already seen his picture.
Not only is an immunized child safer, he or she also helps protect their community. It is well known that when the level of vaccination decreases in a population, the number of infections increases. This is why it is so important that each parent has his or her child immunized. Even if a child is being breastfed, reaping the benefits of the immunity transmitted by the mother, it is not enough to protect against all the diseases that he or she is susceptible of contracting.
Vaccines are administered to children according to a protocol that determines the age at which a vaccine is to be given and indicates if it is to be administered in two or three stages. In Quebec, the immunization calendar plans protection against diphtheria, tetanus (lockjaw), pertussis (whooping cough), polio, measles, mumps, rubella, haemophilus influenzae type B (HIB), chicken pox, and meningitis. In some cases, maintenance doses must be administered to maintain immunization. A few vaccines are also recommended for adults: maintenance shots for diphtheria and tetanus (every 10 years), vaccine against pneumococcus and yearly vaccines against influenza for people with weakened immune systems, senior citizens and individuals who are in contact with young children and people who are ill.
You need not worry if your child has missed a vaccine because his or her paediatrician will simply follow the predetermined catch-up schedule. Although there are many erroneous facts on immunization, there truly is no valid reason for a child not to get vaccinated!