Why Vaccination at All Ages Is Especially Important Now

Some things we outgrow. Vaccination isn’t one of them. To honour National Immunization Awareness Week, we’re highlighting the importance of immunization and the impact that it’s had on protecting and saving lives. Learn why keeping your vaccinations up to date from childhood through adulthood is crucial.

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Immunization saves 2-3 million lives every year.

Immunization is one of the most successful public health interventions. For more than 50 years, vaccines have helped prevent and control the spread of deadly diseases in Canada and abroad. Before vaccines, many Canadians became ill or even died from diseases that are now preventable. Worldwide, there are now vaccines to prevent and control a large number of infections, cancers and other chronic diseases.

Vaccination isn’t just for kids.

Vaccines have been shown to be effective at all ages and across all life stages. Immunization is often a priority for new and expecting parents and children. But vaccinations throughout adulthood are equally important because as we age, our immune system gradually weakens and becomes less effective at protecting us from disease.

Immunity from vaccinations you had as a child may wear off over time. Getting another dose (a booster) can help increase your protection. You may need a booster for vaccine-preventable diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.

There are also diseases that more commonly occur at an older age that many people may not realize could potentially be prevented by vaccination. For example, the risk of developing shingles, a painful rash caused by a previous viral infection, increases with age. So does the likelihood of being infected with influenza infections. Vaccines are available to older Canadians to help prevent these serious illnesses.

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Vaccines help protect you and those around you.

We’re all in this together — even more so when it comes to vaccination. When large groups of people are vaccinated, they create community immunity, which makes it harder for a disease to spread. Community immunity helps to protect the most vulnerable among us who are at high risk of developing disease and severe complications, including babies and children who are too young to be fully vaccinated, pregnant women, adults aged 65+ and people who can’t get vaccines for medical reasons (e.g. those with weakened immune systems or serious health conditions).

If vaccination rates fall, diseases we rarely see in Canada could return.

Due to the success of vaccines in Canada, we’ve been able to control many diseases that used to be common. Canada has been polio-free for 20 years. Rubella and diphtheria are rare, and we have small numbers of pertussis (whooping cough), measles and mumps.

If vaccination rates drop, even for short periods of time, it could mean the return of vaccine-preventable diseases that have almost disappeared and whose devastating impact on Canadians’ health — and the healthcare system — has been almost forgotten. Lower vaccination rates make it easier for these diseases to spread quickly and could result in outbreaks, hospitalizations, deaths and an increased burden on healthcare systems already strained by COVID-19.

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Immunizations are essential, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Continued uncertainty and disruptions in our day-to-day lives has led some Canadians to put a pause on their medical visits, potentially increasing their risk of illness. The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) urges parents not to delay their children’s scheduled vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic so that they’re not at risk for serious infections such as pneumococcal disease, measles and pertussis. Those who miss routine vaccinations might not catch up later and could face long wait times and vaccine availability issues.

Immunize Canada also strongly supports the continuation of routine immunization across all age groups during the pandemic to protect vulnerable populations and reduce the risk of illness and death associated with the potential re-emergence of vaccine-preventable diseases. There’s concern that in the future, when physical distancing measures relax and international travel resumes, these diseases may spread.

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Whatever your age, it’s important that you receive the vaccines you need.

The Canadian Immunization Guide recommends vaccinations based on your age, medical history and risks from pregnancy, lifestyle, work and travel. Make sure that your vaccinations are up to date. Speak with your doctor about the protective benefits of vaccines and which ones are right for you.

For more information, visit vaccinateforlife.ca

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