Immunizations – answering some common questions

Immunizations – we know you have questions! It’s pretty common and we encourage you to ask. Talking to health care professionals about all aspects of your health, including immunization, is important to help you make informed choices for yourself and your family. 

As it’s National Immunization Awareness Week (April 22 to 29), we reached out to members of our Public Health team to capture some of the common questions health care providers are discussing with patients and clients about immunizations. 

“If once-common diseases are all but eliminated in Canada, then why do I need to vaccinate my children?”

Vaccination programs have been very effective in helping to eliminate or greatly reduce the incidence of many diseases. If the current vaccination programs were reduced or stopped, diseases controlled through immunization would reappear in Canada. This phenomenon has been observed in other countries where large epidemics occurred following a decline in immunization rates, resulting in many preventable hospitalizations and deaths. 

Even with near elimination of diseases through vaccination, such as measles, these diseases exist world-wide and can appear here in Nova Scotia and throughout North America. Protecting yourself and your children through vaccination is important in the event that we see increased activity of a disease locally or globally.

“Does it affect anyone else if I don’t vaccinate my children? Isn’t that my personal choice?”

Yes, it is your choice, and immunizations do directly protect individuals who receive vaccines. However, your immunization contributes to community (or herd) immunity, meaning that a highly-immunized population helps to prevent the spread of infection throughout the community and protects at-risk populations such as:

  • newborns who have not yet received all of their vaccines;
  • people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, such as people who had an organ transplant or are undergoing treatment for cancer or other illnesses; 
  • people who may not adequately respond to immunization, such as the elderly.

“My family is planning a trip outside Canada; should I be concerned about immunizations?”

We live in a global community and worldwide travel is a common practice. So, whether people are leaving or entering Canada, the transmission of diseases among the general population is a health care concern. Having an early conversation with a health care provider about your travel plans can help identify any specific immunizations your family may need outside of the regular scheduled ones. Keeping your immunizations up to date is vital to control the spread of diseases – here at home and when travelling abroad.

“How do I know vaccines are really safe?”

Health authorities in Canada work with world health authorities to ensure manufacturers deliver the safest, most effective vaccines. Vaccine safety is monitored very closely through a national reporting system.  

There are many sites individuals can search for trusted, dependable information, such as the Canadian Paediatric Society and the Public Health Agency of Canada. The risks associated with vaccines are much less than the risks associated with the diseases they are designed to protect us from. Being informed is important, as individuals and as a society.

“I am seriously afraid of needles and don’t think I can sit through one alone or with my children.”

Fear is a real issue and you’re not alone. Health care providers have lots of experience helping adults and children relax and supporting them through immunization needles. Let your health care provider know and they can help you with strategies to support you in those moments. 

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