Message from the Minister of Health - National Immunization Awareness Week - April 20-27, 2019

Statement

Over the past 50 years, vaccines have eliminated and controlled serious diseases that were once very common in Canada. Vaccines don’t just save the life of the person that has received the vaccine, but those around them as well. When a large number of people in our community are vaccinated, people who cannot receive the vaccine are also protected. We call this community immunity, and it protects the most vulnerable in our communities, such as infants, individuals with certain medical conditions, and those who are immune-compromised. Many of you likely know someone who depends on community immunity to stay safe and healthy.

Thanks to vaccines, many Canadians today have grown up without knowing the devastating effects of serious vaccine-preventable diseases. While diseases like measles, chickenpox and mumps may be uncommon in Canada, they are just a plane or car ride away. Vaccine-preventable diseases can be an unwelcome souvenir from a vacation or trip to visit a relative in another country. This is why it is important to talk a healthcare provider, at least six weeks before you travel, to ensure that your vaccines are up to date.

In Canada, 97% of parents agree that vaccines are safe and effective. Despite this, we are falling short of community immunity across the country. Outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases can happen anytime a community’s immunity rate drops below 95%. To protect the most vulnerable, we must improve our vaccination rates.

When the polio vaccine was first made publicly available in 1955, parents lined up for hours to ensure that their children received the vaccine and were protected. Today, thanks to universal vaccination programs, many diseases that sickened, disabled and often killed Canadian children are unknown to most of us. Many Canadians have never seen a case of the measles, and many are unfamiliar with what whooping cough sounds like.

As these diseases have become historical footnotes, some Canadians have begun to fear the prevention more than the disease. Many of us need to go back only a generation, maybe two, to hear stories of families and communities that endured outbreaks of these diseases. We must be vigilant to ensure that our own children don’t grow up to tell the same stories.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research is supporting the most innovative vaccination research to keep people safe and protect them and those around from some diseases. For example, the Canadian Immunization Research Network is leading important research addressing vaccine hesitancy and collecting data to inform decision-makers about immunization programs to improve the health of Canadians.

During this National Immunization Awareness Week, I encourage you to verify your vaccination records to ensure that you and your family’s vaccinations are up to date. Vaccines save lives. Together we can protect our children and communities. I invite you to visit Canada.ca/Vaccines for more information and vaccination awareness materials.

The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Health


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