There are certain myths surrounding vaccination, especially when it comes to children. Yet, vaccines have proven their worth against serious and contagious diseases for many years now.
What is the immunization program?
We are fortunate to live in a society where sanitary conditions are excellent. However, we mustn't lower our guard against certain contagious diseases that can leave permanent effects. Current events remind us of this each time a disease that was once under control, resurfaces. The Quebec Immunization Program offers vaccines that provide protection against:
- whooping cough
- rotavirus gastroenteritis
- hepatitis B
- meningococcal infection
- pneumococcal infection
- human papilloma virus (HPV) infections
- Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) infections
Anyone in the general population can receive vaccines included in the immunization schedule free of charge. Certain people are eligible for other vaccines free of charge due to their state of health, lifestyle or work. Ask a healthcare professional if your child needs additional vaccines.
When should my child's immunization begin?
The immunization schedule is determined according to scientific knowledge. Therefore, vaccines are:
- administered when the risk of contracting a disease is at its highest
- effective at the age at which they are administered
- administered at an age when they cause the fewest symptoms
The first vaccines are administered at the age of two months. Because the risk of contracting several diseases is very high during the first year, your child will receive most vaccines during the first 18 months of his/her life.
It may seem surprising that your child receive several injections for the same vaccine (booster doses). It is important to understand that not only does the vaccine have to provide short-term protection, but it also has to last over time. Therefore, it is advisable to follow the immunization schedule without derogating from it, so your child receives all of the necessary doses and benefits from optimal protection.
There is nothing to fear about the number of vaccines administered in a single visit. Several vaccines are combined and only require a single injection. These combined solutions are safe and just as effective as vaccines administered separately.
The immune system can withstand several vaccines at the same time. The ability of your child's immune system is 1000 times stronger than the one needed to deal with vaccines. It is estimated that it could react to 10 000 different germs at a time. The concern that vaccines "weaken" your child's immune system is thus completely unjustified!
How can the vaccines for my child be obtained?
It is advisable to follow the determined immunization schedule as soon as your child is born. Follow-up visits to the CLSC or to the doctor will be the appropriate time to update immunization. It is recommended to follow the appointment schedule.
To make up for an oversight, lateness or simply because you have changed your mind about vaccination, contact your CLSC or doctor. If you don't have a family doctor, Info-Santé 8-1-1 will direct you to the vaccination site closest to your home. Remember to bring your child's vaccination booklet to the appointment.
Why must my child receive vaccines?
Vaccines have made certain diseases a rare occurrence and others literally disappear. The dramatic consequences of these diseases are decreasing within the population mainly due to immunization.
Children who have not been vaccinated are most at risk of contracting a contagious disease. The risk is present even if a very large number of children in their environment have been vaccinated.
Breastfeeding and a healthy diet are not enough to protect your child over time against diseases targeted by vaccination. Apart from the disease itself, only vaccines stimulate the production of antibodies able to defend your child. However, relying on natural immunization is risky, as several diseases lead to serious complications that can cause death. Although they can cause some undesirable effects, vaccines are much safer than natural immunization.
How can my pharmacist help me?
All parents should be well-informed in order to make sound and informed decisions. There is a lot of information circulating about vaccination, including on the internet. If you wish to research this issue, make sure to consult reliable and recognized sites. When an issue, such as vaccination, is controversial, it is often difficult to distinguish between what is true and what is false.
To develop an informed opinion, there is nothing better than having a discussion with a trusted healthcare professional. Pharmacists are well-informed about medication, including vaccination. They can answer all of your questions and help you weigh the advantages and risks associated to the decision you will make. Furthermore, they can direct you to the appropriate resources to get additional information and to receive vaccines.
Remember that deciding not to have your child vaccinated can have serious consequences. Some diseases cannot be prevented, but other can. Immunization is a proven, accessible, preventive measure. Why not have your child reap the benefits?