Why vaccinate?

Why vaccinate?

Here are three important reasons to vaccinate.

1. Vaccines save lives

Vaccines have saved more lives in Canada than any other medical intervention in the past 50 years. Before vaccines were available, many Canadians died from diseases that we can now prevent. Vaccines also prevent diseases that are seldom deadly but can cause pain and permanent disability.

  • In the early 1900s, before the polio vaccine was introduced, thousands of Canadians were paralyzed or died from polio. Thanks to vaccination, Canada has been polio free for the last 20 years.
  • Before the introduction of the Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine in 1988, Hib was the most common cause of bacterial meningitis (a serious and life-threatening infection) among children younger than 5 years of age in Canada. Every year about 1500 cases of Hib meningitis occurred in Canada in children under the age of 5. Since introduction of the vaccine, Hib infections have almost disappeared in Canada.
  • Remembers the germ that made you sick and how to destroy it. That way, if you are ever exposed to the same disease germ in the future, your immune system can quickly destroy it before it has a chance to make you sick. This protection is called immunity.

2. Vaccine-preventable diseases are still out there

Many of the diseases vaccines prevent are now rarely seen in Canada, largely because of vaccine programs. But the germs that cause these diseases still exist, and some of these diseases such as pertussis (whooping cough), measles and mumps still occur in small numbers in Canada. If vaccination rates drop, these small numbers of diseases could quickly become outbreaks and epidemics of disease. We have seen this happen in other countries:

  • A pertussis epidemic in Japan: In 1974 in Japan, rumours began to spread that pertussis vaccination was no longer needed and that the vaccine was not safe. By 1976 only 1 in 10 infants were getting vaccinated. In 1979 Japan suffered a major pertussis epidemic, with more than 13,000 cases of pertussis and 41 deaths. In 1981, the government began vaccinating with the acellular pertussis vaccine and the number of pertussis cases dropped again.
  • Measles in Ireland: Ireland saw measles cases soar from 148 cases in 1999 to 1,200 cases just one year later when MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) immunization rates dropped to 76%. Rates dropped because of unfounded reports that linked the MMR vaccine to autism, which has been disproven. Several children died in this outbreak.
  • Measles outbreak in the Fraser Valley: In 2014, the Fraser Valley experienced the largest measles outbreak in B.C. in almost 30 years. It was thought to be caused by a traveller from the Netherlands, where another outbreak was occurring. Low immunization rates in one community allowed measles to spread quickly, resulting in over 400 cases.