Saving Lives a Vaccine at a Time


National Immunization Awareness Week LogoNational Immunization Awareness Week provides an opportunity to focus attention on the importance of vaccinations for all ages.

Did you know that in the last 50 years immunization has saved more lives than any other health intervention?

Unfortunately, the fact that vaccines have been so successful has led many of us to forget what life would be like without them – and why it is so important to continue to get immunized.

Vaccines are safe and have significantly decreased, and in some cases eliminated, vaccine-preventable diseases.

Take measles, before the vaccine, 95 per cent of Canadian children suffered this disease before their 18th birthday – that’s about 300,000 cases on average each year causing brain damage and even death to hundreds of kids. After the vaccine, that average dropped to about 50 cases per year, and results in zero deaths. Or polio, known for causing “infantile paralysis,” was last seen in about 2,000 individuals during the last Canadian epidemic of 1959, versus zero cases registered today – post vaccine.

Table: Vaccine Success in CanadaSource: Canadian Paediatric Society, 2010

Why is it important to keep vaccinating?

Vaccines protect everyone – and save lives. When we stop vaccinating, the rates of vaccine preventable-diseases increase. If we become complacent about the importance of vaccines because these diseases are now rarely seen, the results will be detrimental.

Remember that many of these diseases can result in death or in lifelong disabilities, and even damage a fetus in womb. Some diseases – like polio – don’t have a cure, making prevention that much more important.

Table: Diseases and their effectsSource: Canadian Pediatric Society, 2010

Communicable Disease Control
Theresa Kent, vaccine clerk, in the vaccine room at Mount Pearl Square

Theresa Kent, vaccine clerk, in the vaccine room at Mount Pearl Square

The Communicable Disease Control (CDC) Department at Eastern Health ensures that the residents of the region receive, and in turn benefit from, immunization.

Each year, CDC nurses and vaccine depot clerks distribute over 100,000 doses of vaccine to health-care providers in over 150 sites across Eastern Health!

(l-r): Suzette Spurrell, communicable disease control nurse coordinator, and Shelley Button, communicable disease control nurse with Eastern Health’s Communicable Disease Control (CDC) Department

(l-r) Suzette Spurrell, communicable disease control nurse coordinator, and Shelley Button, communicable disease control nurse with Eastern Health’s Communicable Disease Control (CDC) Department

At the same time, CDC nurses provide vaccine advice and education to those who administer vaccines.

Childhood and school immunization programs are primarily administered by Public Health nurses. These vaccination programs are very successful; in fact, Eastern Health has some of the highest immunization rates in Canada at 90-97 per cent coverage in children! It is our hope that these high immunization rates continue for years to come. ■

To find more information about vaccines or what immunizations you may require, contact your local Public Health nurse, family physician, and pharmacist or check out the following websites:

This story was written by Suzette Spurrell, a communicable disease control nurse coordinator, and Shelley Button, a communicable disease control nurse with Eastern Health.

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