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.
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.
Did you know that…
The sooner you get the flu shot, the more protected you will be in the long-run — especially because flu season tends to wind down in the spring. It takes your body two weeks to establish an immune response to the vaccine and make it effective against the flu.
The flu is a viral infection that can have severe complications. Anyone can get the flu virus. The flu is not just a cold. You could miss school, work, parties, holidays, or even end up in the hospital. The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone six months of age and over. This year with the presence of COVID-19 circulating in the community, it is especially important for high risks groups to get the flu vaccine to reduce the potential risk of having COVID-19 and influenza at the same time. Getting your annual flu vaccine is an important way to help protect yourself, your family and high risk groups in your community against seasonal flu. It will also help reduce the burden on Canada’s health care system during respiratory illness season. The flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19, but it will help reduce your risk of getting the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. Having both illnesses at the same time could put you at a higher risk for severe illness
Does the ByWard FHT offer the flu vaccine to patients?
Patients can obtain a flu vaccine when they have an in-person visit at the clinic. Patients who have an in-person appointment will be offered a flu vaccine. In-person visits for the sole purpose of obtaining a flu shot will only be offered for patients less then 2yrs of age. Parents may call the clinic at 613-564-3950 to book a flu shot appointment with the nurse.
If I don’t anticipate going to the clinic for any other issue in the next few months, where do I go to get the vaccine?
· Pharmacies ONTARIO – Public Health Ontario is encouraging patients to obtain their flu vaccine at local pharmacies – they will have the high-dose vaccine this year for patients 65+ years of age. Ontario patients may obtain the flu vaccine free of charge. As in previous years, they are restricted to patients 2 years of age and older.
· Pharmacies QUEBEC – Quebec patients may obtain flu vaccine at Quebec pharmacies though there is a fee unless patient belongs to a high-risk group. Info is available at https://www.quebec.ca/en/health/advice-and-prevention/vaccination/quebec-immunisation-program#c2569
What’s the benefit of going to my local pharmacy?
· Community pharmacies are convenient and widely accessible and evaluations consistently demonstrate that patients are satisfied with pharmacist-led vaccinations.
· Allowing community pharmacists to administer influenza vaccination as an alternative option for delivery helps to increase the coverage rate of vaccination.
· In addition, commissioning community pharmacists to provide this service has been shown to contribute to achieving targets for those at-risk.
· Pharmacist-led influenza vaccination has become a more commonly utilized aid to support vaccination targets.
What if I don’t have OHIP coverage?
Ottawa Public Health flu vaccine appointments will be offered for select groups:
1. Children aged six months to under 5 years of age and their household members.
2. High-risk individuals without Ontario Health Insurance (OHIP) who are unable to access a flu vaccine through a primary care provider or pharmacy.
Other ways to protect yourself
Besides getting a flu shot, it’s important to eat a well-balanced meal, pay attention to your sleeping habits and exercise regularly. Also, wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough and stay at home if you’re sick. These are the best ways to avoid spreading the virus. For additional information regarding the flu go to the Government of Ontario website.
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?
Reading suggestion : Your Child’s Best Shot (4th edition): Canadian Paediatric Society