The benefits of vaccination

Immunization plays a crucial role in preventing, treating and managing human diseases and illnesses. Every year, immunization averts two to three million deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases including cervical cancer, diphtheria, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), pneumonia, polio, rotavirus diarrhea, rubella and tetanus, reports the World Health Organization.

Viruses do not discriminate. Infants, children, and adults are all at risk of contracting a virus that can seriously impact their health and lead to death. The Ebola vaccine that is currently being used in outbreaks in Africa was made by Canadian researchers and has saved thousands of lives. Canadian researchers and health care providers recommend vaccines to keep people safe and protect them and those around from some diseases. 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.

Vaccines go through many tests and approvals before we can use them in Canada. As part of the National Immunization Strategy objectives for 2016-2021, we aim to achieve 80% vaccination coverage among adults and 80-95% vaccination coverage for infants and children. Although immunization rates are high in Canada and the benefits of vaccination have been demonstrated widely, there are still a small number of people who doubt the effectiveness and fear the side effects of vaccination. In 2015, 15% of parents believed that practices such as chiropractic and naturopathy can replace vaccines, which studies have shown is not true.

In order to address this gap, Canadian researchers are working at identifying under- and un-immunized populations, and the socio-structural barriers associated with lower immunization access and uptake. For example, current research undertaken at the University of British Columbia is looking at how attitudes and beliefs play out in the clinical practice of maternity health care providers and is exploring how it impacts their interventions related to vaccines on pregnant women and infants. Other research performed at the University of Alberta studies the factors associated with immunization access and uptake by immigrant and refugee women of child-bearing years and their children.

According to Dr. Charu Kaushic, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Infection and Immunity, the best and safest way to protect yourself from preventable and harmful diseases remains immunization. If we want to reach the highest levels of health for all people, every community must participate.

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