Despite the ongoing debate over whether or not to immunize, medical experts agree that vaccines are crucial for protection against disease. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, “vaccines have saved the lives of more babies and children than any other medical intervention in the past 50 years.” Vaccinations don’t just protect your child; they also help reduce the spread of bacteria and viruses that cause disease, which helps protect newborns, the elderly and people with immune deficiencies (who typically should not be given live vaccines).
Though many vaccine-preventable diseases are less common today in Canada, they still occur here and are common in other parts of the world. In recent years, there has been a resurgence of measles and pertussis (whooping cough) in Canada and the United States, as well as
in the United Kingdom, where measles vaccinations dropped after a now debunked study suggested a link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. As long as a disease exists anywhere in the world, it’s a potential threat everywhere. “The main reason for outbreaks is that people simply haven’t had their vaccines,” says
Dr. Arlene King, chief medical health officer for Ontario.
Regular vaccinations are important and typically begin at two months. Waiting is not recommended. “The later you protect babies, the higher the risk of getting that disease. I strongly encourage parents not to veer from the recommended schedule,” says Dr. Trey Coffey, staff pediatrician at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. “And there’s a lot to be said for getting it over with.”
Mild reactions—a low-grade fever or a little redness, small swelling or pain at the injection site—are common. Though very rare, severe reactions can occur. If your child develops a high fever, hives, increasing redness or swelling around the injection site or has any other unusual reactions following a vaccination, call your doctor immediately or go to the hospital. Call 911 if your child has difficulty breathing or swallowing, is very weak or is difficult to waken. Ultimately, the potential risk of a reaction is far outweighed by the risks of the diseases vaccines prevent.
“Nothing saddens and disappoints me more than seeing a healthy child become suddenly and gravely ill with a vaccine-preventable illness like influenza, pertussis or complications of varicella,” says Dr. Coffey. “As parents, we all make mistakes, but this is one mistake I wish I could stop every mom and dad out there from making.”
Not sure when to vaccinate your babe? Consult our handy vaccination schedule, vetted by pediatricians at the Hospital for Sick Children. You can also print the table to keep with your kids medical records in a safe place.
Learn more about your child’s health with Your Most Pressing Health Questions Answered.