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.
“British Columbia offers access to a wide variety of immunizations because we know the value in protecting our population from preventable diseases like measles and whooping cough,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “National Immunization Awareness Week is another opportunity to remind all British Columbians of the importance of getting themselves and their children immunized. We can all do our part to build community immunity towards our target of 95 per cent.”
“This year in Interior Health we had a pertussis (whooping cough) outbreak in the West Kootenays. We also saw cases of mumps and other vaccine preventable illnesses across the region,” said Dr. Pollock. “It’s really important that we keep immunization rates high to help prevent outbreaks like this from happening. The best way to do this is to make sure you and your family members have up to date immunizations.”
“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).
For more information: Call your local public health centre.