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It’s Canada’s National Immunization Week – Are you Up to Date?

It’s Canada’s National Immunization Week – Are you Up to Date?

April 19, 2018 – Are you up to date with vaccinations for you and your family? This year, Canada’s National Immunization Awareness Week (April 21-28, 2018) coincides with Vaccination Week in the Americas and the World Health Organization’s World Immunization Week. This is all the more reason to learn more about the vaccination schedule recommended for you and your family.

Vaccines work! Vaccinations help your body create an immune response against disease, and protect you and your family from getting sick. Infectious diseases and illnesses such as polio, measles, mumps and whooping cough are serious concerns for public health. However, thanks to the introduction of vaccines to modern medicine, these conditions are now preventable.

For some parents, the decision to vaccinate or not vaccinate their children can be very challenging. Fears and misinformation about the alleged dangers and side-effects of vaccine ingredients may cause some individuals to delay the recommended schedule or avoid immunization. This was the case for Alicia Friesen and her husband Rick, residents of Arborg, when deciding whether to immunize their two youngest children according to the recommended schedule. Although they had immunized their first four children on schedule, they decided to wait for their two youngest get a bit bigger and stronger before introducing vaccines into their systems.  

During this time, Friesen sought the advice of her pediatrician and Interlake-Eastern RHA public health nurse, Marcy Timchishen, when educating herself a bit more about vaccines and their ingredients, risks and benefits. She also found some very good, science-based information addressing vaccination myths and the safety of their specific components from BC Health’s “Immunization Communication Tool.”  Seeking this professional information and advice turned out to be the best thing she did to address her concerns and questions as a parent.

“Our public health nurse was always open to discuss our concerns.  She wasn’t at all disapproving of our choice to delay immunization.  She helped address our concerns and was always very understanding and respectful of this delicate issue,” Friesen said.

When asked if she had any advice for parents like herself who were on the fence about immunization and vaccines, Friesen had this to offer based on her own experience: “I’d love to just tell everyone to get their children immunized, but I realize that it’s just such a personal choice.  Maybe just this: don’t be too closed to the idea.  Get something from both sides.  Of course, it’s easier to just talk to people we agree with, but we may not be getting all the information that way.  None of us really want to bury our heads in the sand; we want to be making informed choices.  I think getting people to talk about this could bring the truth more into the forefront, instead of just fear of the unknown.”

According to Timchishen, - “Choosing to vaccinate can be a difficult choice for some.  My husband and I have two children for whom we both make the same decisions.  Talking about your fears and concerns about vaccination with your public health nurse or care provider can help provide you the answers that you need to make an informed choice.  I am always open to discussing concerns that parents have with vaccination.” 

Timchishen notes that any decision that you make in life, such as buying a home or a car, should be based on accurate information.  Vaccination is no different. You want to make sure that you are making a choice based on fact and not “hearsay.”  You need to talk to a professional for answers. There are also many sources of information that are scientific, reputable health-related sites -- such as Manitoba Health or BC Health -- that provide balanced and accurate information. Blog sites and social networks such as  Facebook, are not scientific-based nor necessarily factual.  

Vaccine-preventable diseases still pose a threat in places where immunization rates have dropped, such as our community and surrounding area.  Just a single case of disease can pose serious harm to the sick individual and is a risk to all unvaccinated people. We want to ensure that our families are protected from these diseases by keeping our vaccination rates high. Let’s work together to keep everyone safe!

 Friesen Family

Alicia and Rick Friesen, of Arborg, with their family.

To learn more about recommended vaccination schedules for children and adults, visit:

- www.ierha.ca, click on “Care in Your Community” and “Public Health” then “Immunization”

For more about the myths and facts about vaccines as well as information on the safety of their specific components check out BC Health’s “Immunization Communication Tool” at

https://is.gd/immunizebc

Fast Facts About Immunization:

Making sure you and your family are up to date on your vaccinations not only keeps you healthy, it can potentially save lives. Here are some facts about the effectiveness of vaccines from the World Health Organization:

  • During 2016, 116.5 million infants worldwide received three doses of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, protecting them against infectious diseases that can cause serious illness and disability.  
  • From 2000 to 2008 there was an 82% drop in deaths from measles due to vaccinations.  
  • Polio cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988. Today, only three countries (Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan) remain polio-endemic, down from more than 125 in 1988.
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