Alberta Health Services
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, in the last 50 years vaccination has saved more lives in Canada than any other health intervention and is estimated to prevent 2-3 million deaths worldwide per year. Getting vaccinated is one of the most important things you can do for your health and the health of your community. It protects those around you who are vulnerable to disease, such as babies too young to be immunized, people undergoing chemotherapy, the elderly and people who cannot be immunized for medical reasons.
Vaccines are safe and effective. While mild reactions are common, serious side effects are very rare and the risk from vaccine-preventable disease is much greater. Because vaccines are given to healthy people there are multiple systems that review vaccine safety. First they go through years of research, followed by lab and clinical studies. Then they are tested and approved by Health Canada and reviewed by the National Advisory Committee on Immunizations. After that, each batch is tested by the manufacturer and inspected and reviewed by Health Canada. Licensed health professionals give and record vaccines so their safety can be continuously reviewed and monitored.
Most people do what they feel is right for themselves and their children. Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation and some people are frustrated because they don’t know what to believe. Anyone can put anything on the internet, so it is important to make sure you are using credible sources. For example, Health Canada and the Canadian Medical Association Journal are more trustworthy than social media and stories you hear on the news.
When looking for information you can ask yourself the following questions: Is it clear who owns the website and does it clearly state its purpose? Is it backed up by a health agency? Does it reference scientific studies in reputable journals?
Some common myths are that vaccines weaken the immune system, cause autism and are no longer needed. Vaccines do not weaken the immune system, they strengthen it and can help protect against other infections as well. Vaccines do not cause autism and there have been over 20 studies done to prove this. Vaccines are needed and have worked so well that we have forgotten how bad the diseases are. Thankfully, many of us have not had to see the devastation these diseases cause. However, with less people vaccinating the disease rates are increasing.
Thanks to the vaccine, smallpox has been eradicated worldwide, and some other diseases could be as well. Polio was almost eliminated, but with decreased immunization, cases of polio have increased. While Canada has been polio free for 20 years, it’s only a plane ride away.
For more information visit www.immunizealberta.ca. health office.