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7 important reasons to immunize your child

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1. Immunization can save your child’s life.

Vaccines protect your child against diseases that can cause serious illness, long-term disability, and even death. For example, polio can cause paralysis, measles can cause brain swelling, mumps can cause deafness, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) can cause brain damage and death, and HPV (human papillomavirus) can cause cancer.
Some diseases vaccines protect against, like measles and tetanus, have no treatment or cure. Vaccines are the only protection against these diseases. 
Did you know? The World Health Organization estimates vaccines prevent more than two million deaths yearly.
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2. Vaccines are safe and effective.

Vaccines are safe. They are among the safest tools of modern medicine. All vaccines undergo an in-depth testing process and must be shown to be safe and effective before being approved in Canada. Once a vaccine has been approved for use, its safety is continuously monitored. 
Vaccines are effective (they work). Before vaccines were available, many Canadians suffered or died from diseases like polio, diphtheria, and Hib, all of which we can now prevent. Thanks to vaccines, many of these diseases are now rare in Canada. 
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3. Vaccine-preventable diseases have not gone away.

Many vaccine-preventable diseases are now rare in Canada, mostly because of vaccines. But these diseases still exist. If immunization rates drop, these diseases will come back. This has happened in other countries, resulting in many preventable hospitalizations and deaths.
Further, many diseases we rarely see in Canada (like measles and polio) are still common in other parts of the world and can be brought to Canada through international travel. Without protection from vaccines, these diseases would spread quickly, and outbreaks would occur. We've seen this happen recently in BC with measles outbreaks in communities with low immunization rates. 
Until these diseases are eliminated worldwide, we must keep immunizing against them. 
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4. Immunizing your child helps protect others.

When your child gets immunized, it doesn’t just protect them; it also helps to protect your whole community. This is because the more people in a community who are immunized, the harder it is for a disease to spread. This type of protection is called community (or herd) immunity.

Community immunity helps keep disease rates low and helps protect the most vulnerable among us, including:
  • Babies who are too young to be fully immunized.
  • People who cannot get certain vaccines for medical reasons, such as a child receiving treatment for cancer.
  • People who may not respond well to immunization, such as those with poor immune systems.
A young boy smiling. Behind him is a window reflection of cars and trees.

5. It's much safer to get the vaccine than the disease.

Immunization is the best and safest way for your child to build immunity. If your child gained immunity through natural infection (getting the disease), they would be at risk for severe illness and, in some cases, long-term disability and death. For example:

  • Meningococcal infection can cause deafness, loss of limbs, and brain damage.
  • Chickenpox can cause pneumonia (infection in the lungs) and increases the risk of severe invasive group A streptococcal infection.
  • Pneumococcal infection can cause meningitis (infection of the lining that covers the brain), septicemia (infection of the blood), and pneumonia. 
  • Measles can cause pneumonia and encephalitis (swelling of the brain).
An adult man, a young boy and an elderly man smiling.

6. Vaccines protect future generations.

Vaccines have reduced, eliminated, or eradicated many diseases that killed or severely disabled people just a few generations ago. For example:
  • Smallpox immunization eradicated the disease worldwide. Today children no longer need to get immunized against smallpox because the disease no longer exists.
  • Polio immunization has eliminated the disease from Canada and most countries. Polio was once the most feared disease, causing death and paralysis.
  • Immunizing children against rubella has dramatically reduced the risk of pregnant people passing the virus on to their fetuses or newborn.
If we keep immunizing, in the future, we may not need to worry about diseases like measles or polio. 
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7. Vaccines can help reduce antibiotic resistance.

Immunizing your child can help reduce their need for antibiotics, which helps reduce antibiotic resistance. If your child doesn't get sick, they won’t need antibiotic treatment.
 Examples of how vaccines have reduced antibiotic resistance: 
  • There was a decrease in antibiotic resistance in pneumococcal bacteria after the pneumococcal vaccine was introduced. 
  • After the Hib vaccine was introduced, there was a similar decrease in bacterial resistance to antibiotics for Hib .


Vaccines work

This graphic shows how effective vaccines have been at reducing disease in Canada by comparing the number of disease cases before and after the introduction of each vaccine.

A graph showing diphtheria, measles, mumps, pertussis, polio and rubella cases significantly dropping after vaccine use.

How community immunity works

This graphic shows how disease can spread quickly when no one is immunized and how the spread of disease is contained when most people are immunized.

A graphic of two scenarios shows how community immunity works. On the right, the graphic indicates that many people are infected because disease spreads quickly when no one is immunized. On the left, the graphic shows that the spread of disease is contained when most people are immunized.

What is herd (community) immunity? 

This video explains how community immunity works to protect your family and community.  

Video courtesy of Health Canada. All contents may not be reproduced without permission and are copyright of Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, Represented by the Minister of Health, 2012.