Risks and Safety in Perspective

When it comes to your child, safety and health are your most important concerns.  And, ours too. We’re here to help you keep your child safe and grow up healthy.

So, let’s talk about safety, risks and immunization.

Before immunization

Not all that long ago, parents lived in a world without immunization. Deadly diseases were a fact of life, and it was a common occurrence for parents – who didn’t have the option of choosing a simple shot to protect their children – to lose their children to these diseases.  It was pretty scary.

Before immunization:

  • Diphtheria was the most common cause of death in Canadian children between the ages of one and five.
  • Measles affected more than 300,000 Canadian children each year, causing on average almost 300 deaths each year and leaving another 300 Canadians with brain damage each year.
  • Whooping cough sickened almost 50,000 people per year.
  • In the five years before polio immunization, more than 11,000 Canadians were paralyzed by the disease. In fact, in 1953 alone polio caused 500 Canadian deaths.

Immunization today

Thanks to immunization, these diseases are now preventable.

Parents have the opportunity to arm their children to fight off disease. Instead of standing idle aware of risk, parents can take action to reduce that risk. 

And, parents can do so with the confidence that generations of surveillance, and decades of research, provides.

Over the past 50 years, immunization has saved more lives in Canada than any other health intervention. For example:

  • At its peak, before immunization, polio infected more than 1,500 Canadians annually. By comparison, zero cases were reported between 2007 and 2011.
  • At its peak, before immunization, diphtheria infected more than 9,000 Canadians annually. By comparison, between 2007 and 2011, the greatest number of cases reported annually was four cases. Across North America, diphtheria-related deaths were reduced by 99% after immunization was introduced. 
  • At its peak, before immunization, rubella infected more than 37,000 Canadians annually. By comparison, between 2007 and 2011, the greatest number of cases reported annually was 10.
  • At its peak, before immunization, invasive Hib infected more than 500 Canadians annually, and was the most common cause of bacterial childhood meningitis. By comparison, between 2007 and 2011, the greatest number of cases (of invasive Hib) reported annually was 18.

Immunization has also saved these lives safely. In Canada, severe allergic reactions to vaccines are rare, happening only once for every one million doses of vaccines given, each year.

Unfortunately, misinformation has created some recent confusion around these facts; confusion that has caused some parents to question whether immunization really is the best thing for their child.

Uncertain of the answers and overwhelmed by information, some parents have decided to hold off immunizing their children, waiting for proof that they feel is more clear.

Sadly, that proof is emerging:

Immunization-preventable diseases are making a comeback.

Where immunization rates have dropped, these deadly diseases have returned.

Children who aren’t immunized are getting sick with the diseases that only immunization can prevent.

Across North America and worldwide, outbreaks of whooping cough, mumps, measles and other vaccine preventable diseases are being declared. 

In fact, right here in Alberta, two outbreaks of measles were declared between October 2013 and April 2014. In 2013 alone, 43 cases of measles were confirmed in Alberta, and between January and June of 2014, more than 25 additional cases had already been added to that tally. By comparison, from to 2009 to 2012 combined, only 10 cases of measles were confirmed in Alberta, in total.

This rise isn’t limited to measles alone. Clusters of mumps and whooping cough have also affected Albertans in recent years. Tragically, there have even been deaths. 

Considering information, weighing the risks

When there is a lot of information out there, it can feel overwhelming, and be hard to weigh the risks and the benefits.

As you consider immunization, here are a few things you might want to keep in mind:

  1. The risks that diseases pose to your child are far greater and more likely than the risks associated with immunization.

    Diseases like polio, diphtheria, measles and pertussis (whooping cough) can cause severe illness that impacts your child’s health for life. The risk of your child experiencing such severe health issues as hearing loss, paralysis, and brain and/or heart damage is greater than the risk of your child experiencing a reaction after immunization.

    Severe allergic reactions to immunizations occur at a rate of approximately only one for every one million doses of vaccine distributed in Canada, each year.

    The most common symptoms children experience after immunization are temporary redness, swelling or pain where the needle has been given. These symptoms usually go away one to three days after immunization.

  2. The only “cure” is prevention.

    For many of the diseases that routine childhood immunization can prevent, no treatment exists.

    When it comes to the few diseases for which treatments have been developed, despite the fact that these treatments exist, the rates of death for these diseases still remain very high, even with treatment.

    Without immunization, children are 100% at risk of getting sick with diseases that, for the most part, have no cures.

    By comparison, immunizations are up to 99.9% effective at preventing these diseases.

From the perspective of protecting your child against diseases that pose a significant risk of illness and death, immunization – your child’s armour – is the safer and simpler alternative.