This is National Immunization Awareness week. Immunize Canada (immunize.ca) organizes this event every year to raise awareness about immunization in Canada. The FNHA Immunize Team is posting a series of immunization facts, stories and resources. In this one, learn the answers to common questions about immunization.
1. I had a severe reaction after an immunization when I was a child. Should I be worried about my child having a similar reaction when she receives her immunizations? Should my child avoid that particular vaccine?
Routine vaccines are very safe for children with healthy immune systems. Understandably parents are concerned about possible side effects from vaccines. However, reactions to vaccines are not hereditary and most side effects from vaccines are minor, if they occur at all. The area where the shot was given may be sore. And some children may be fussy or get a slight fever. Serious side effects are very rare. It's much more dangerous to risk getting the diseases than to risk having a serious reaction to the vaccines.
Vaccines must go through years of research, followed by testing and retesting before they can be used in Canada. Several systems are in place to monitor the creation, the use, and the safety of vaccines. Each vaccine must be proven to be safe and to work before it can be given. If these systems flag that a vaccine is frequently associated with even minor adverse reactions, an alternate vaccine will be used. An example of this is highlighted with the pertussis vaccine.
Babies have the capacity to produce up to one billion antibodies. As such, it is estimated that (theoretically) an average baby could handle up to 10,000 vaccines at one time without concern.
3. Question: If herd immunity works, why do I need to get immunized? Doesn't herd immunity protect me, or my child?
For many diseases, children are at the highest risk of the disease and also have the most severe illness. The best way to protect someone against a disease is to vaccinate them directly, rather than rely on 'indirect' protection through herd immunity. If someone who is unvaccinated does meet the germ responsible for that disease they will be completely at risk of getting the disease.
Herd immunity only works for diseases that are spread directly between people (i.e. are 'contagious'), like measles. One example where it would not work is tetanus. The bacteria which cause tetanus lives in the soil, so anyone who is not vaccinated would be at risk and could easily be infected if they were exposed to bacteria in the soil, such as through a dirty wound, even if everyone else around them was vaccinated and protected.
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