The current measles outbreak in parts of our province is a powerful reminder of the importance of immunization. When immunization rates drop, whole communities can be at risk.
An immunization rate of 95 per cent is needed to help protect vulnerable people in the community. If the majority of people are vaccinated for a disease, it becomes harder for the disease to spread from person to person. When people stop immunizing diseases come back. This puts our more vulnerable citizens at risk including young children, seniors, and people with certain medical conditions or weakened immune systems.
In the last 50 years, immunization has saved more lives in Canada than any other health intervention. April 26 to May 3 is National Immunization Awareness Week.
This year’s theme Vaccination: Your Best Shot is an important reminder that immunization is the best protection against many serious diseases.
Dr. Sue Pollock, Medical Health Officer, reminds us that we all have an important role to play in preventing the spread of vaccine preventable diseases like measles, mumps, and whooping cough.
“Many of today’s parents have not seen such diseases in their lifetimes; thanks to very successful immunization programs. Some people don’t realize just how dangerous these diseases can be,” added Dr. Pollock.
“Measles and chickenpox viruses can lead to serious complications like pneumonia and encephalitis (brain swelling). Pertussis (whooping cough) can cause seizures and brain damage in babies and mumps infection can result in deafness.
“The risk of having a serious side effect from a vaccine is very small. The benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.”
Sorting fact from fiction is not easy, but it’s important to have correct information. Dr. Pollock suggests parents make sure they get immunization information from credible sources such as public health nurses, family physicians, and reliable websites like ImmunizeBC (www.immunizeBC.ca).