National Immunization Awareness Week in Canada runs from April 26 to May 3 this year.
It is a good time to reflect on the importance of immunization as an effective weapon to protect ourselves and our families – especially our toddlers and our frail and elderly – from preventable diseases.
However, those of us in the 20 to 45 age bracket – the ones who still think we are infallible – recently learned how important it is to get flu shots.
As the flu bug raged across the nation this winter, many of that folks in the age group were knocked down by the H1N1 virus, and people were surprised it was the elderly and the youth being affected this time around.
As we saw with the recent large outbreak of measles in the Fraser Valley and later across the country, outbreaks can happen at any time.
This certainly highlighted the need to encourage immunization for children in all areas of the province.
Canada has been free from endemic measles since 1998.
However, large outbreaks in unvaccinated communities have been seen when cases are imported from parts of the world where measles is still quite common.
Protecting our children against diseases, such as measles, chickenpox, mumps, meningococcal meningitis, rubella, pertussis, influenza and polio, is vitally important to the health and welfare of our children – the next generation.
Our medical experts tell us vaccines have a proven track record of being highly effective in protecting us throughout our lifespan.
In just a few generations, immunization programs have eradicated smallpox, and for most Canadian parents, deadly, life threatening and crippling childhood diseases are a thing of the past.
Polio vaccination is the reason we no longer have hospital wards full of children in iron lungs.
Indeed, the baby boomers have generally grown up without the spectre of these once common diseases.
This success, however, has led to complacency for the new generation of adults and young parents, and there are deep misunderstandings about how vaccines and the immune system work, according to public health experts.
The bottom line is that, if more people get vaccinated, more will be protected from getting these preventable diseases.
Doctors tell us vaccines present very low risks and provide a great deal of protection against potentially deadly diseases such as pertussis and meningococcal meningitis.
We should stand up and take a shot for your loved ones, or at the very least, take the time to learn the facts and then get immunized.