Re: Immunization doesn’t prevent diseases, Letters (March 27)
Firstly, immunization is one of the most important advances in public health and is estimated to have saved more lives in Canada over the past 50 years than any other health intervention.
Before vaccines became available, many Canadian children died from diseases such as diphtheria, measles and polio that are now preventable by immunization. Immunization programs are responsible for the elimination, containment or control of infectious diseases that were once common in Canada; however, the viruses and bacteria that cause vaccine-preventable diseases still exist globally, can be imported to Canada through travel, and can be transmitted to people who are not protected by immunization. If immunization programs were reduced or stopped, diseases that are now rarely seen in Canada because they are controlled through immunization would re-appear, resulting in epidemics of diseases causing sickness and death. This phenomenon has been seen in other countries; for example, large epidemics of diphtheria and measles have occurred in Europe in recent decades after immunization rates declined. It is important to note that diseases such as pertussis, (whooping cough) still exist and it is immunization that prevents outbreaks. The only vaccine-preventable disease that has been eradicated globally is smallpox, and that was because of immunization. It is also important to note that some vaccine-preventable diseases require booster shots to “boost” immunity throughout life. Tetanus bacteria is a good example of this. It lives naturally in the soil and will never disappear, so continued immunization is important.
No vaccine is 100 per cent effective. There will always be some people who are not immune, even though they have had their shots. This small minority will be protected as long as people around them are immunized. It is important for as much of the population as possible to be immunized, so those people who do not develop immunity, and those who are fragile and chronically ill, will be protected by herd immunity.
Secondly, all parents have questions about the risks associated with immunization. Some good websites with evidence-based research, not scare tactics, are: The Public Health Agency of Canada, with links to The Canadian Immunization Guide, and Your Child’s Best Shot. Your local public health nurse is also a good source of reliable evidence based information. In Canada, immunization is not mandatory. Information is provided to parents, and they then make their own informed choice.
Lastly, and I must ask the question, why would Canada want to inject carcinogens and toxic agents into its most valuable resource, our children? The Public Health Agency of Canada website gives the in-depth list of ingredients in vaccines, what they are for, and the systems in place to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines. It also provides links to the research that has been done on vaccine ingredients and theoretical illnesses in children.
Margaret Millar and Phyllis Randle,
Former public health nurses