Immunization is one of the most important accomplishments in public health that has, over the past 50 years, led to the elimination, containment and control of diseases that were once very common in Canada. Before vaccines became available, many Canadian children were hospitalized or died from diseases. Today, although these disease causing bacteria and viruses still exist, such diseases are rarely seen in Canada. However, if the current vaccination programs were reduced or stopped, diseases controlled through immunization would re-appear in Canada. Immunization is important in all stages of life. Infants and young children are particularly susceptible to vaccine preventable diseases because their immune systems are less mature and therefore less able to fight infection; as a result, they require timely immunization. Older children and adults also require immunization to restore waning immunity and to build new immunity against diseases that are more common in adults. Immunization directly protects individuals who receive vaccines. Through community (or herd) immunity, immunization against many diseases also prevents the spread of infection in the community and indirectly protect.
One hundred years ago, infectious diseases were the leading cause of death worldwide. In Canada, they now cause less than 5% of all deaths – thanks to immunization programs across the country.
Immunization protects children from some serious diseases that can make them very sick and even cause death. It also protects against potentially serious complications of the diseases. Although we rarely see most of these diseases in Canada now, they still exist. If we stop vaccinating children, these diseases will return. Children in Ontario must be immunized to attend school or daycare. This vaccination schedule for Ontario residents will tell you which vaccines are needed at what age.
Vaccines work very well. Immunization protects individuals and communities by preventing the spread of disease. As more people are immunized, the disease risk for everyone is reduced. Immunization has saved more lives in Canada in the last 50 years than any other health intervention.
Vaccines used in Canada are very safe. They are one of the most rigorously researched and monitored areas of medicine. Most vaccine side effects are minor and self-limited, lasting only a few days and not disrupting daily activities. Serious allergic reactions from vaccines are extremely rare and are reported immediately to the Public Health Agency of Canada so that any problems can be dealt with quickly.
Adults need to keep their immunization (vaccination) up to date for several reasons:
- Some vaccines do not offer lifelong protection so a booster is required, i.e. tetanus
- Fully immunized adults can help protect vulnerable populations (such as infants, elderly, etc.) who have not been immunized or who are unable to be immunized.
- Vaccine-preventable diseases can occur at any time because the bacteria and viruses that cause these infections have not been eliminated, i.e. HPV, Hepatitis, Herpes Zoster.
- Diseases rarely found in Canada are common in other parts of the world. If you travel outside North America it is important to be protected from diseases that are not common at home.
Talk to your family doctor about which of these vaccines recommended for you. List of recommended adult vaccines.
For childhood vaccines: Routine childhood vaccines are usually free of charge.
Adult vaccines: Seniors or people with chronic diseases are at higher risk for certain diseases, and they receive vaccines to protect against these diseases free of charge. Other adult vaccines are available at a cost as they are not covered by the provincial health insurance, i.e. OHIP.
Travel vaccines: For vaccines to protect yourself against diseases abroad before you travel, please visit our travel clinic. You will need to pay for travel vaccines.
Immunization booklets can be updated at any visit to the clinic. You can also call the clinic and leave a message for your family physician’s nurse – we will follow-up with you to update your information.
Seasonal influenza, commonly called “the flu,” is caused by influenza viruses, which infect the respiratory tract (i.e., the nose, throat, lungs). Influenza tends to spread rapidly in seasonal epidemics. Most infected people recover within one to two weeks without requiring medical treatment. However, in the very young, the elderly, and those with other serious medical conditions, infection can lead to severe complications of the underlying condition, pneumonia and death. Our healthcare professionals strongly encourage you to get your flu shot. It is the single best way to prevent the flu.
Track your immunization with CANImmunize App!
What does it do?
Provides Canadians with the ability to:
- Securely store and manage their families’ immunization records
- Access immunization schedules
- Receive alerts about infectious disease outbreaks in their area
- Receive appointment reminders when it’s time to vaccinate
Where can I get the app?
The CANImmunize app is free. It can be downloaded from iTunes or GooglePlay.
References : Immunize Canada and Public Health Agency of Canada
Reading suggestion : Your Child’s Best Shot (4th edition): Canadian Paediatric Society