Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada National Immunization Awareness Week | April 22-30, 2024


April 22, 2024 | Ottawa, ON | Public Health Agency of Canada

Today marks the beginning of National Immunization Awareness Week (NIAW) in Canada. This year, the theme highlights how vaccination supports our health and well-being throughout every stage of our lives, from infancy to older adulthood.

Vaccination is an important tool to help keep us healthy so we can take part in the activities that matter to us, like staying active in our communities, enjoying time with our loved ones, traveling, and going to school and work. Vaccination also contributes to building healthier and more resilient communities. When vaccination rates are high, it helps protect people who cannot be vaccinated, or for whom vaccines do not work as well, due to age or medical conditions, such as people with compromised immune systems like those undergoing cancer treatments or organ transplant recipients.

Over the past century, vaccination has dramatically reduced serious illness from infectious diseases, offering protection at many different stages of life. There are many examples that demonstrate the importance of vaccination. When I was first in practice as a pediatrician I treated cases of Haemophilus Influenzae type b. It would cause children to get very sick with meningitis, some of whom could die or have lasting complications like deafness. Now, because of vaccines, we almost never see Haemophilus Influenzae type b or its complications. Older adults will remember the time when outbreaks of polio were a real concern. Now, we almost never see polio in Canada due to widespread vaccinations.

Offering recommended vaccines, including influenza and pertussis (whooping cough)-containing vaccines, is now a routine part of prenatal care. Pertussis vaccination during pregnancy helps prevent serious illness in the baby during the first few months of life before they receive their own vaccines. Influenza vaccination during pregnancy offers protection for the pregnant person and also for the newborn baby. Young children in Canada receive vaccines that protect them against up to 15 serious diseases, including measles, pertussis and polio, to help them grow and thrive. The human papillomavirus vaccine offered in school-based programs to tweens or teens helps protect against a number of cancers, including cervical cancer and cancer of the throat that can develop later in life. Getting vaccines as we age, especially in older adulthood, can help prevent serious illnesses like pneumonia and shingles that can impact our ability to remain active, participate in our communities and live independently.

As Chief Public Health Officer, I want to acknowledge the efforts of those living in Canada to ensure that their vaccinations are up-to-date to prevent the introduction and spread of vaccine preventable diseases. As well, I wish to thank everyone involved in supporting vaccine innovation and development and those involved in bringing vaccines to communities from scientists to policy makers to healthcare providers and beyond. Together, we are ensuring the benefits of vaccines are available to everyone, improving health for all now and in the future.

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