According to the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation and the Canadian Coalition for Immunization Awareness and Promotion, too many of our children have not received all the recommended vaccines. In fact, close to half of them are not even up to date in their immunization schedule. Is this dangerous?
Experts all agree that vaccinating children remains the best way to protect them against many serious childhood diseases. In the past fifty years, immunization has saved more lives in this country than any other medical intervention. Unfortunately, based on erroneous information they receive from family members and the media, many parents still hesitate to have their children vaccinated. The consequences can be disastrous and may even cause the death of a child. For example, bacterial meningitis can cause devastating neurological damages, while pertussis or whooping cough can actually kill a child under the age of one.
The efficacy of vaccination campaigns has been proven over and over again. Diphtheria, tetanus (lockjaw) and poliomyelitis are diseases that rarely occur in children who have been vaccinated. Before the introduction of the vaccine against haemophilus influenzae type B, also known as HIB, over 2,000 cases of bacterial meningitis were reported in the country. Since being included in the routine childhood immunization schedule, only five cases are reported each year. The pathogens that cause these diseases are still present in our environment and can potentially infect children who have not been immunized.
Contrary to popular belief, vaccines do not overload the immune system. We are all exposed to hundreds of substances that affect our immune system every day. Our system is constantly being stimulated to recognize and produce antibodies to fight diseases.
There is no risk in contracting the disease contained in a vaccine. It is not the disease that is injected, but rather the dead or weakened bacterium that causes the disease. Vaccines that are called “inactive” contain the dead virus. They provide the body with a “picture” of the pathogen. The immune system learns to recognize the disease and keeps its characteristics in memory. If or when it comes into contact with it again, it will recognize and fight it. “Weakened” vaccines actually contain the weakened bacterium. The latter is able to infect cells and multiply in the body without having the ability to provoke the full-on disease. The immune system therefore starts to fight the infection. In other words, we are injecting the weakest pathogen that can later be destroyed more easily by our armed immune system. This form of vaccine constitutes a test-run at fighting the real infection. Both types of vaccines are effective. When manufacturing a vaccine, scientists choose a type of formulation according to the characteristics of the pathogen.
When we immunize our children, we do not provoke other types of diseases such as autism or multiple sclerosis, to name a few. Worldwide studies have been unable to establish such a link.
While most basic vaccines are covered by the Quebec universal Health Insurance Plan, others such as the one against gastroenteritis are not. The best way to know which vaccine is covered is to contact your family physician or local CLSC.
Although immunization is not mandatory in Quebec, it is highly recommended. If an immunization schedule is delayed, or if booster shots are administered late, the optimal efficacy of the vaccine may be compromised. It is never too late to rectify the situation and make sure your child is properly immunized. Do not hesitate to speak with your pharmacist and physician if you have any qualms or queries.
Get the bug for your child’s health! Immunization is a simple way to protect your child against serious childhood diseases and to quell potential anxieties.