Message from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada: National Immunization Awareness Week – April 23 to 30, 2016


As Canada marks this year's National Immunization Awareness Week, it is a good time to reflect on the immunization success story and remind ourselves how important it is to keep our immunizations up to date.

In fact, the success of immunization has been so significant, that it figures among the Canadian Public Health Association's list of the "12 Great Achievements of Public Health" and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "Top Ten Great Public Health Achievements of the 20th Century."

Today, diseases that were once commonplace are now considered newsworthy when they occur. Before the advent of immunization, infectious diseases were a leading cause of death.

Despite the immunization success story, we cannot afford to be complacent. In order for immunization to continue to be effective, it is vital that Canada achieves and maintains high immunization rates so that infectious diseases are not able to circulate in our communities. That said, evidence has shown that not all Canadians get immunized, which has resulted in periodic outbreaks of diseases such as measles, a serious illness that can debilitate and result in death.

In July of last year, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) released the 2013 Childhood National Coverage Immunization Survey. It shows the large majority of Canadian children are immunized against common illness such as measles, mumps, rubella, meningitis and polio. However, this survey also shows that 23 per cent of children had not received the full four recommended doses of the diphtheria, whooping cough (pertussis) and tetanus vaccine by age two.

Additionally, the 2014 Adult National Immunization Coverage Survey showed that, while most individuals believed that they received all vaccines required for someone their age, less than 10 per cent were up-to-date on their adult immunizations.

Identifying the reasons why Canadians accept, delay or refuse vaccines is essential to learning how to develop, evaluate and promote effective strategies for immunization.

With $25 million over five years announced in Budget 2016, PHAC will develop a focused program to improve vaccine access and uptake. Activities include updating national immunization coverage goals and vaccine-preventable disease targets and improving Canada's ability to identify under- and un-immunized Canadians. PHAC looks forward to working with our partners, stakeholders and the provinces and territories to help improve Canada's immunization rates.

All Canadians have a role to play in keeping vaccine-preventable diseases at bay. Speak to your health care provider if you have questions. Immunization is a cornerstone of public health -- make sure you and your family are protected.

Dr. Gregory Taylor
Chief Public Health Officer
Public Health Agency of Canada

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