Labour Day has come and gone. The kids are back at school (Woo Hoo!). This seems like the right time to talk about vaccines. For children. For adults. Vaccines protect us all.
Most vaccines come in the form of needles. A few are administered orally or nasally. They protect people against certain diseases and infections. Many of the diseases they prevent are extremely serious, and extremely contagious. It only makes sense that we should all protect ourselves, and at the same time protect others. For children here in Ontario to attend school, they must be immunized against several infectious diseases.
Not everyone is comfortable with vaccination. Some people make claims about vaccines that are simply not true. Others hear those claims, and become afraid. They refuse to have their children or themselves vaccinated. This is dangerous, for them and for others. Which is why, I would like to present the facts about vaccines.
Fact – Vaccines are safe
It is true that vaccines can cause some side effects, such as headache, mild fever or muscle aches, but for the most part they are minor and quickly go away. You are much, much more likely to become seriously ill from a vaccine-preventable disease than from a vaccine, and the benefits of protecting yourself and those around you far outweigh any potential risks and side effects from vaccines.
Fact – Vaccines do not cause autism
There was one study, more than 20 years ago, that suggested vaccines cause autism. It has since been thoroughly discredited. The author has lost his licence to practice medicine. There is not a single piece of evidence linking vaccination and autism.
Fact – Vaccines do not give you the disease they are supposed to protect against
Some (not all) vaccines do contain live versions of the germ that causes the disease, but the germ has been so weakened that it poses no danger for anyone with a healthy immune system. And these vaccines are not administered to people whose immune systems are not healthy.
Fact – It is perfectly safe to receive multiple vaccines at the same time
Your immune system is constantly handling exposure to many things at once. Multiple vaccines do not cause problems for the immune system, and getting several vaccines at once means fewer trips to the doctor for you.
Fact – Vaccines are not only for kids
You are never too old to catch a disease, and you are never too old to get vaccinated.
Fact – If everyone stopped getting vaccinated, rare diseases today such as polio and measles would come back quickly
Polio and measles have been made extremely rare because of vaccination. Let's keep it that way. If we get vaccinated, and our children get vaccinated, we might even wipe these diseases off the face of the earth.
Fact – Vaccination helps everybody
When the majority of a population is vaccinated, there’s little opportunity for an outbreak. This is called “herd immunity”: the entire population is more protected, including infants too young to be vaccinated and those with weakened immune systems like cancer patients. It is important that those who can be vaccinated get vaccinated to help keep everyone healthy.
For physicians like me, vaccination really does fall into the 'no-brainer' category. Doctors would always rather help their patients avoid a disease than help them recover from it. Which is why the fact that there is any disagreement at all about the safety and importance of vaccines is such a frustration. Hopefully, I’ve been able to help. Please spread the word. Billions of people around the world, have been protected through vaccination. But that’s not good enough. We want to protect more.
If you have any concerns about vaccinations please speak with your doctor. There is no substitute for your doctor. Your doctor has the expertise and evidence to help you understand why vaccinations are critical, and what the risks are of not vaccinating your children.
Dr. Sohail Gandhi, OMA President