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Immunization

Why Immunize?

Immunization is one of the best ways to keep baby healthy. In the days before vaccines, many children got sick or died from diseases that we can prevent now.Vaccines are very safe. There are very few reasons for children not to get their immunizations.

Vaccine Safety

Vaccines must go through many tests before they are approved for use. Vaccine-makers must show that the vaccination is safe. They must also show the vaccination actually prevents the disease it is made for. Health Canada and all health-care providers monitor vaccines for safety when they are in use.

Are there Side-effects to Vaccines?

  • Some children may have a fever or may feel pain where the immunization was given. You may want to breastfeed while the immunizations are being given to reduce pain.
  • Other side-effects are very rare.
  • The chance of getting sick from the disease far outweighs the very small risk of reacting to an immunization.

Is it Better to give Vaccines One at a Time or Combined with Others?

  • Many of the immunizations your child will receive have several vaccines in them, such as the five-in-one vaccine (which protects against diphtheria, polio, tetanus, pertussis, and Hemophilus influenza type B or Hib disease) and the MMR vaccine (which protects against measles, mumps and rubella).
  • A number of studies have shown that giving combinations of vaccines is both safe and effective. It is also practical, allowing your child to receive several vaccinations during one visit. This means fewer office visits, saving you both time and money. Fewer vaccinations may also be less traumatic for your child.

Why are Babies Immunized at a Young Age?

  • Vaccination starts at 2 months of age to protect babies against pertussis, Hib and rotavirus disease as early in life as possible.
  • These diseases are very harmful to young babies.
  • Side-effects from vaccinations are not more common in infants.

Can Measles or the MMR Vaccine cause Autism or other Developmental Problems?

  • All the research on the MMR vaccine and autism has been reviewed independently by expert committees. These experts agree that there is no scientific evidence that MMR causes autism or other disorders.

Can Mercury in Vaccines cause Brain Damage, Retardation, Autism, Attention Deficit Disorder and Learning Disorders?

  • In the past, mercury was present in some vaccines in the form of thimerosal. This is a preservative used since the 1930s.
  • There is no evidence that the presence of thimerosal in vaccines causes brain damage in children.
  • Thimerosal is in the flu vaccine, which is suggested for everyone over 6 months old.
  • Thimerosal is used in other vaccines that are given to older children and adults.

Can Immunization cause Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)?

  • Several large studies have shown that there is no association between vaccination and SIDS.
  • Babies who died of SIDS were less likely to have been vaccinated recently than babies who had their vaccinations.

Can Vaccines cause Asthma and Other Kinds of Allergic Disease?

  • Recent studies have shown that immunization does not increase the frequency of asthma and other allergic diseases in children.

Where can I get More Information?

  • Talk to your health-care provider if you have questions about vaccines or your child’s health
  • The Canadian Paediatric Society has a book for parents called Your Child’s Best Shot: A Parent’s Guide to Vaccination (www.cps.ca).
  • The Canadian Coalition for Immunization Awareness & Promotion has information for parents, children and health professionals (www.immunize.cpha.ca).

Source: Moore, D. (2015). Your child’s best shot: A parent’s guide to vaccination (4th Ed.). Canadian Paediatric Society: Ottawa

Immunization and the Law

Day Care

Children need certain immunizations to attend licensed day-care centres. Your Health Unit or day care centre can tell you what is needed.

Elementary School

Children need written proof of immunization to register for school. The immunizations for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps and rubella are required. Parents or guardians are required to give this information to the Health Unit. Parents should also let the Health Unit know when new immunizations are given.

You may decide because of medical, religious or philosophical reasons not to immunize your child. In this case, you will need to provide a written exemption to your local Health Unit. The forms are available at the Health Unit. You may be charged a fee depending on who completes the form. The form comes back to the Health Unit.

Note that if the disease appears in your child’s school or day care, your child may have to stay out of school or day care until the disease is no longer present.

Immunizations Required for School

Recommended Immunization Schedule for Ontario

These are all Available Free-of-charge.

  • Diphtheria can cause breathing problems, heart failure, paralysis (loss of control over muscles in the body) and death. It is a very serious bacterial infection.
  • Tetanus (lockjaw) causes painful muscle spasms, breathing failure and can lead to death. It is caused by bacteria and spores in soil that can infect wounds.
  • Polio can cause paralysis (loss of control over  muscles in the body), inflammation of the brain and death. It is caused by a virus that appears in drinking water or food. It is no longer common in Canada because of immunization. Cases do occur in other parts of the world, and it can be caught when travelling.
  • Measles causes rash, high fever, cough, runny nose and watery eyes. It can cause middle ear infection, pneumonia (lung infection), inflammation of the brain, hearing loss, brain damage and death. It is caused by a virus that spreads through coughing and sneezing.
  • Mumps causes fever, headache, painful swelling of the glands in the mouth and neck and earache. It can cause inflammation of the brain. It can cause temporary or permanent deafness and swelling of the ovaries in women and testes in men. This can possibly lead to sterility. It is spread by contact with nose and mouth fluids.
  • Rubella (German measles) causes fever, rash, swelling of the neck glands and swelling and pain in the joints. It can cause bruising and bleeding. If a pregnant woman gets rubella, it can be very dangerous for the unborn baby. It is spread by coughing, sneezing and contact with fluids of the nose and mouth.
  • Meningococcal DiseaseGroup C is a very serious bacterial infection and a common cause of meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) and meningococcemia (severe infection of the blood) that can cause severe complications and death.
  • Pertussis (whooping cough) causes severe coughing spells for weeks or even months. It can also cause pneumonia (lung infection), middle ear infection, convulsions (seizures), inflammation of the brain and death. The risk of complications is greatest in children younger than one year of age. It is spread in the same way as rubella.
  • Varicella (chickenpox) causes fever, headache, chills, muscle or joint aches a day or two before the itchy, red rash appears. A pregnant woman with chickenpox can pass it on to her unborn baby. Mothers with chickenpox can also give it to their newborn baby after birth. Chickenpox can be very severe or even life-threatening to newborn babies. It is a highly contagious viral infection. It spreads by coughing, sneezing and direct contact.

Recommended Vaccines

These are Strongly Recommended.

Most of these vaccines are available free of charge. There may be a charge for some if they are not given at the recommended age. Call the Health Unit for more information.

  • Hepatitis B is a virus that can cause serious liver problems that can be fatal, such as liver failure and liver cancer. The vaccine is free to Grade 7 students and certain high-risk groups (including infants born to mothers who are infected with hepatitis B and can pass the disease on to their babies).
  • Influenza causes cough, high fever, chills, headache and muscle pain. It can cause pneumonia (infection of the lungs), middle ear infections, heart failure and death. The danger of this infection varies from year to year depending on the strain and can be mild to life-threatening. Anyone 6 months of age and older can get the vaccine each year free of charge. The virus spreads by coughing and sneezing or touching nose and mouth fluids.

ROTARIX™ Vaccine: Special care

Excretion of the live vaccine virus in the stools of vaccinated children is known to occur especially around the 7th day after vaccination. Those changing the diapers of recently vaccinated children should wash their hands well after diaper changes. Rotarix should be given with caution to children in close contact with those who have any disease or are taking medications that may reduce the contact’s resistance to infection.

Source: Product Monograph Rotarix™ Human rotavirus, live, attenuated oral vaccine, GlaxoSmithKline Inc., January 14, 2016, pg. 5, 29.

Vaccines Recommended for Younger Children

These Vaccines are Available Free-of- charge

  • Hemophilus Influenzae B (Hib) can cause middle ear infections, breathing problems, damage to joints, pneumonia (lung infection), inflammation of the brain leading to brain damage and death. It is a bacteria that can infect any part of the body. It spreads mostly by coughing and sneezing.
  • Pneumococcal Disease can cause serious illnesses such as pneumonia, blood infection and meningitis. It is spread by coughing and sneezing. The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine is now available free of charge in Ontario for routine immunization of infants as well as high-risk children 2 to 59 months of age.
  • Rotavirus is a severe dehydrating gastroenteutis that occurs primarily among children aged 4 to 23 months. It is characterized by vomitting, fever, abdominal pain and watery diarrhea which may last three to eight days.

Talk to your health-care provider for more information about these vaccines and the diseases they prevent.

Keeping Track of Immunizations

It is important to keep an immunization record. Get a yellow immunization card from your doctor or local Health Unit or use Ontario.ca/vaccines to keep a record of the vaccinations. An up-to-date immunization record will prevent unnecessary extra vaccinations. Written immunization records are needed when:

  • Starting day nursery or school.
  • Transferring to a school in another area.
  • Going to camp.
  • Starting university, college or a job.
  • Receiving emergency health-care.
  • Travelling to other countries.
  • It is the parent/guardian’s responsibility to provide immunization records for all school children to the local Health Unit. Don’t forget to update the Health Unit when/if your child gets another vaccination by calling, faxing to 519.426.9974 or submitting online at www.hnhss.ca.

References:

  • GlaxoSmithKline Inc., 2016
  • Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (online), 2012
  • Public Health Agency of Canada (online), 2016