This article appeared in the Fall/Winter 2014 issue of Sudbury Living Parents
BY STEPHANIE HASTIE
There is a lot of discussion these days about immunization. It can be a subject that a lot of parents have questions about and it is difficult to find straightforward answers.
Ever heard of diphtheria [dif-theer-e-uh]? Wondering why you should immunize your child against it, if you have never even heard of it?
The first part of the answer is that you should definitely immunize your child against it. The second part of the answer is that you have likely never heard of it because vaccines are doing the job they were meant to do: stopping infections from developing.
It is true that a natural infection provides more immunity than a series of vaccinations. However, that natural infection can often come at a high price. Many infections that are preventable by immunization can cause serious illness in children, especially very young children and some can lead to complications. Influenza can cause lung infections. Rotavirus infection causes diarrhea which can lead to dehydration. Vaccination helps to prevent these diseases and their potentially serious complications so children don’t ever have to become sick in order to have protection.
In Canada today, thanks to immunization programs, many of the diseases that once caused serious illnesses in our parents and grandparents aren’t illnesses that are likely to make any of our kids sick, unless we choose to stop immunizing. If vaccination rates drop, vaccine preventable diseases may once again become common threats.
Do vaccines have side effects that can cause children to feel unwell after vaccination? Of course, some do. Are the side effects of immunization as serious as the illnesses themselves? Absolutely not. Some children can be allergic to vaccines just like some children have food and medication allergies. Health-care providers ask parents questions about their child’s health, prior to vaccination, to identify potential allergies and have safeguards in place to manage any potential reactions after vaccination.
Immunizing your child on schedule gives your child the best immunity possible that lasts throughout childhood. For some vaccines, booster doses may then be given to “boost” your child’s immunity as they age. Some booster doses are even given throughout adulthood to make sure adults are protected as we age.
As parents, we have a lot of choices to make for our children, especially when it comes to their health. If you have concerns about particular vaccines, discuss them with your health-care provider. If your child falls behind schedule with immunizations, ask your health-care provider about catch-up programs. Being informed will help you make the best decisions regarding your children’s health.
Stephanie Hastie is a public health nurse with the Sudbury and District Health Unit.