Getting the facts out about immunization is the purpose of National Immunization Awareness Week, which begins this Saturday.
This year’s theme, “immunization protects everyone” is intended to drive home the fact that when you get immunized, you’re also protecting those around you from disease in addition to protecting yourself, said Dr. Rob Parker, medical health officer with Interior Health.
Vaccines are not just for children, they’re safe and effective and they save lives, said Denise Talarico, a public health nurse with Interior Health.
And in fact, she said, people in the Kootenays immunize the most infrequently in B.C.
“Some people are not immunizing according to schedule,” she said, or they’re not immunizing at all.
An example of the consequences is 40 cases of whooping cough last year, she noted.
“It can have serious consequences for infants,” Talarico said.
When immunization rates fall in a community, the community becomes more vulnerable, she added. For example, there were nine cases of measles in Revelstoke last year because of a lapse in immunizations, she said.
“We’ve become less focused on disease and more focused on side effects — which are minimal — of vaccines.”
In the fall of 2008, Gardasil (the human papillomavirus vaccine) began being administered in schools for girls in Grade 6 and 9. The Grade 9 program was to “catch-up” on girls that had missed it in Grade 6 and will be discontinued this June, but one-third of girls eligible for the vaccine haven’t had it, Talarico said.
Girls born in 1994 or after can have it for free, and as of February of last year boys and men can get it as well, as it has been proven to prevent genital and anal warts. It is now used in over 120 countries around the world, Talarico said.
She added that women up to 26 years of age can get the vaccine, and even if they have been explosed to the virus there may be a strain they can protect themselves from.
In order for vaccines to be most effective, infants and toddlers should be immunized at age two, four, six, and at 12 and 18 months. School-aged children should receive vaccinations in kindergarden and in Grades 6 and 9.
Talarico said as long as people keep up to date with their vaccinations, the chances of a disease growing drops significantly.
“Immunization does protect everyone,” she said.
Vaccinations are usually administered by a public health nurse. A list of offices is available at www.interiorhealth.ca/centres.aspx or under the blue pages in the phone book.