"Vaccines have the power not only to save, but also to transform lives – giving children a chance to grow up healthy, go to school and improve their life prospects. The benefits of immunization aren’t only for children. Vaccination offers protection to adolescents and adults against life-threatening diseases such as influenza, meningitis, and cervical cancer.
Dr Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, Director, WHO Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals
Definitions - Vaccine, vaccination, immunization
A vaccine is a substance that primes the body’s immune system to make antibodies, T-cells and memory cells which are the body’s defense against infection.
Vaccination means having the vaccine − actually getting the injection.
Immunization means both receiving the vaccine and becoming immune to ward off a disease as a result of immunization.
Immunization is one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions and prevents between 2 and 3 million deaths every year. From infants to senior citizens, immunization protects against diseases such as diphtheria, measles, pertussis (whooping cough), pneumonia, polio, rotavirus diarrhoea, rubella and tetanus. The benefits of immunization are increasingly being extended to adolescents and adults, providing protection against life-threatening diseases such as influenza, meningitis, and cancers (cervical and liver cancers).
The goal of those concerned with immunization is the elimination of vaccine-preventable diseases. Eradication of smallpox has been achieved. Currently, global efforts are directed at the eradication of polio and the elimination of measles. Ongoing immunization programs with high vaccine coverage are needed to maintain low levels of other vaccine-preventable diseases.
When the incidence of a communicable disease decreases to low levels because of successful vaccination programs, there is a potential for people to question the need to continue the programs, and this may lead to lower vaccine coverage and, inevitably, resurgence of the disease. Therefore, immunization providers must advocate for the continuation of successful programs.
Immunization in CANADa
Vaccines have improved the lives of every Canadian. For instance, before tetanus immunization was available, the fear of tetanus hovered over every cut and puncture wound. Older adults will easily recall the vigour with which every childhood scrape was disinfected to protect against lockjaw and memories of family or friends paralyzed by polio and summers spent in fear. In the last 50 years, immunization has saved more lives in Canada than any other health intervention.
Immunization in Ontario
Wondering where to begin? Vaccination Ontario has an interactive Routine Immunization Schedule tool that will help you identify the immunization needs of people within a variety of age groups.
Vaccines that protect against the following respiratory tract/lung-related diseases/infections are available free of charge:
- Diphtheria is a very serious bacterial infection that affects primarily the upper respiratory system. It can cause breathing problems, heart failure, nerve damage and death in about 10% of cases
- Measles causes rash, high fever, cough, runny nose and watery eyes. It can cause middle ear infection, pneumonia (lung infection), inflammation of the brain, hearing loss, brain damage and death.
- Pertussis (Whooping Cough) causes severe coughing spells for weeks or months. It can also cause pneumonia (lung infection), middle ear infection, convulsions (seizures), inflammation of the brain and death. The risk of complications is greatest in children younger than one year of age.
- Influenza (the Flu) is a viral infection that causes cough, high fever, chills, headache and muscle pain. It can cause pneumonia (infection of the lungs), middle ear infections, heart failure and death. The danger of this infection varies from year to year depending on the strain and can be mild to life-threatening. Any one six months of age and older who lives, works or attends school in Ontario can get the vaccine each year free of charge.
- Haemophilus Influenzae type b (HIB) is a bacteria that can infect any part of the body. It can cause middle ear infections, breathing problems, damage to joints, pneumonia (lung infection), inflammation of the brain leading to brain damage and death. This vaccine is recommended for children less than 5 years of age.
- Pneumococcal disease is a bacterial infection that can cause serious illnesses such as pneumonia, blood infection and meningitis. The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine is now available free of charge in Ontario for the routine immunization of children less than 2 years old as well as high-risk children 2 to 59 months of age.
Vaccines that prevent against the following are also available free of charge:
- Hepatitis B
- Varicella (Chickenpox)
- Meningococcal disease
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) [Eighth grade females]
Ontario is also expanding its vaccine program to include:
- Rotavirus oral vaccine for infants 6-24 weeks of age
- Second dose of Chickenpox vaccine for children 1-11 years of age
- Whooping Cough booster vaccine for adults 19-64 years of age