Vaccination is a powerful ally in the fight against many serious diseases. Without vaccines, many of the diseases we are currently protected against could see a resurgence.
It is normal and natural to have questions about vaccines prior to receiving one. Yet, there is a lot of false and misleading information about vaccines online, which creates public anxiety regarding vaccination.
The information in this handout is intended to help you better understand how vaccines work, along with the goal and effects of vaccination.
How do vaccines work?
Vaccines work by exposing the body to very small amounts of germs (or parts of them) that have been killed or weakened. This causes the body to believe that it is being attacked by the actual disease-causing virus or bacteria. As a result, the immune system develops the defenses it needs to recognize and attack these microbes should future exposure occur. This is known as immunity.
While catching a disease naturally also gives immunity, it can pose serious health risks. In fact, vaccine-preventable diseases can cause suffering, after-effects and fatal complications.
Vaccination is a much safer way for the body to develop immunity against diseases. In truth, it is extremely unlikely that a vaccine could cause an actual infection. The risk is non-existent when it comes to vaccines that contain dead germs (which accounts for most vaccines in Canada), and extremely rare for vaccines that contain weakened germs.
Why get vaccinated?
In addition to saving lives, vaccination significantly reduces illness and the spread of disease. Vaccines not only protect those who are vaccinated, but also protect those who cannot be vaccinated due to their age, a health condition or an allergy. In reality, individuals who have been vaccinated against a disease have very little to no risk of catching or transmitting the disease. This helps protect the entire population.
In sum, vaccination serves to protect you and the most vulnerable against vaccine-preventable diseases.
Are vaccines safe?
All vaccines used in Canada are safe and effective. Before a vaccine is made available to the public, it must be approved by Health Canada, a process that takes about 10 years of research and development. The safety of vaccines is regularly monitored by several government bodies that document any adverse effects following vaccination.
As with any medical procedure, vaccination is not risk free. Before being vaccinated, speak to your health care provider to ensure that it is safe for you. Do remember though, that for most, the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.
What about nosodes?
Nosodes are homeopathic products. They are not and have never been approved to be vaccine alternatives, but have been promoted and used for such purposes.
There are no substitutes for vaccines. Individuals given nosodes instead of vaccinations are at risk of developing serious and potentially fatal illnesses, including measles, mumps, rubella, polio, and whooping cough.
Should I be vaccinated before traveling abroad?
If you are planning a trip abroad, we encourage you to speak to your health care provider about recommended or required vaccines for your travel destination. Being vaccinated can help protect against diseases that are common in areas you may visit.
It is important that you discuss your vaccination requirements at least six weeks prior to your departure. This will help to ensure that you have enough time to be vaccinated, and to allow your body the time needed to develop optimal immunity against the diseases in question.