April 26 to May 3 marks National Immunization Awareness Week. As the week draws to a close, this year’s theme, ‘vaccination: your best shot’, seems more relevant than ever. The debate over whether to vaccinate or not has continued to heat up, with parents questioning the positive and negative effects of vaccinating their children. But after a recent outbreak of measles in B.C., the evidence seems to point pretty clearly towards supporting and choosing vaccination.
In Canada, immunization has saved more lives in the last 50 years than any other health intervention. It is the best defence from many serious diseases and should be a no brainer.
Having your child, and yourself, immunized protects against illnesses like measles, chickenpox, whooping cough, rubella, hepatitis, and mumps. It also protects the wider population by keeping those diseases from spreading.
Rumours are continuing to spread that vaccinating children can cause autism, seizures, fainting, multiple sclerosis, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, amid other concerns. But according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, research simply doesn’t support those claims.
Whether or not the rumours can be proven wrong, Canadian immunization rates are dropping. Interior Health states that an immunization rate of 95 per cent is needed to help protect vulnerable people in the community. When the majority of people are vaccinated for a disease, it becomes harder for the disease to spread from person to person. But when young people stop immunizing, diseases we haven’t seen in decades come back. This puts our most vulnerable citizens at risk – meaning children, seniors, and those with pre-existing medical conditions or weakened immune systems.
Aside from the recent measles outbreak, Interior Health has reported a whopping cough outbreak in the West Kootenays, as well as cases of mumps and other vaccine preventable illnesses across the region. The danger of these illnesses far outweighs the small risk of suffering a side effect from vaccination. Measles and chickenpox can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis (brain swelling). Whopping cough can cause seizures and brain damage in babies. And mumps can result in deafness.
As long as immunization remains unregulated, the choice to vaccinate or not is yours. Separating fact from fiction on this hot topic isn’t easy, but do your research and make an informed decision. The facts generally speak for themselves.
For more information on immunization, visit www.immunizebc.ca.