Vaccination: the healthy choice

Vaccines save lives. In fact, in the last 50 years, vaccines have saved more Canadian lives than any other medical intervention.

While vaccines have made many diseases rare in Canada, the organisms that cause them are still out there. If vaccination rates drop, we could see outbreaks of diseases such as measles, mumps, and pertussis (whooping cough) return. And diseases that are rarely seen in Canada are still prevalent in other countries, only a plane ride away, and it’s not possible to know where every person you come in contact with has been. When you get vaccinated you are not only protecting yourself, you are also protecting the people you are around—including babies who are too young to be vaccinated and people who cannot receive vaccines for medical reasons (such as undergoing cancer treatment or having a weak immune system).

Childhood immunization

Babies’ immune systems can fight off many germs, but there are some deadly diseases that they can’t handle. Children are exposed to thousands of germs every day through the food they eat, the air they breathe, and the items they touch. This is why childhood vaccinations are so important. Vaccines use tiny amounts of substances that help a child’s immune system learn to recognize and fight off serious diseases.

The Canadian Paediatric Society and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization currently recommend the following vaccines for children.

• 5-in-1 (DTaP-IPV-Hib) or 6-in-1 vaccine (DTaP-HB-IPV-Hib) protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, and Hib disease; 6-in-1 vaccine also protects against hepatitis B.

• Rotavirus vaccine protects infants against rotavirus, the most common cause of serious diarrhea in babies and young children.

• Pneumococcal vaccine protects against infections caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, including meningitis (a brain infection), pneumonia, and ear infections.

• Meningococcal vaccine protects against diseases caused by the meningococcus bacteria, including meningitis and septicemia, a serious blood infection.

• MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps, and rubella.

• Varicella vaccine protects against chickenpox, a very uncomfortable and sometimes serious infection.

• Hepatitis B vaccine protects against hepatitis B, a serious infection of the liver.

• dTap vaccine protects adolescents against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough).

• HPV vaccine protects against the human papillomavirus, the cause of a variety of cancers (anus, cervix, penis, vagina, vulva, mouth, and throat) and genital warts.

Your child’s healthcare provider can advise you on which vaccines your child should have and when to have them.

Not just kid stuff

Vaccines aren’t just for children. Adults need vaccines, too. The vaccinations you may need can vary depending on what vaccines you have had in the past, whether you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, the type of work you do, if you are planning to travel, and if you have any health conditions.

Commonly recommended vaccines for immunization of healthy adults include:

• Td (diphtheria, tetanus): for adults who haven’t previously received the vaccine, plus a booster dose every ten years

• Herpes zoster (shingles): adults 50 years and older

• Human papillomavirus (HPV): women up to 45 years old and men up to 26 years of age (or older if at risk)

• Influenza (the flu): annually

• Measles, mumps: susceptible adults born in 1970 or later

• Meningococcal conjugate: adults up to and including 24 years of age who were not immunized in adolescence

• Pertussis: one dose of pertussis-containing vaccine in adulthood; adults who will be in close contact with young infants should be immunized as early as possible; one dose of Tdap vaccine should be administered in every pregnancy, ideally between 27 and 32 weeks of gestation

• Pneumococcal polysaccharide 23-valent: adults 65 years of age and older should receive one dose

• Pneumococcal conjugate 13-valent: adults at high risk

• Polio: Previously unimmunized adults

• Rubella: susceptible adults should receive one dose; if vaccine is indicated, pregnant women should be immunized after delivery (or one month before pregnancy)

• Varicella (chickenpox): susceptible adults up to and including 49 years of age should receive two doses

In addition to routinely recommended immunization, certain vaccines are recommended for adults in specific
risk situations. As an added benefit, some vaccines can lower your chances of getting other diseases in addition to protecting you from the diseases they are designed to prevent, for example:

• Hepatitis B vaccine lowers the risk of liver cancer.

• HPV vaccine lowers the risk of cervical and anal cancers.

• Flu vaccine lowers the risk of flu-related heart attacks and other flu-related complications from existing health conditions

Vaccine misinformation

Some people are afraid to get vaccinated, because they believe false stories about vaccines that they have heard from friends or have read in the media. Don’t be fooled by this misinformation and let it lead you to putting your health and that of your family at risk. Here are the facts that help clear up some of this misinformation:

• The MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine does not cause autism. This story began 20 years ago when a British doctor published an article that supposedly made the connection. It was later discovered that his research was seriously flawed and that he had a financial interest in a company that was going to come out with a competing vaccine. The doctor lost his license to practice medicine, and many studies have disproved any link between autism and the vaccine.

• Vaccines are safe. In Canada, there are very strict guidelines governing the way vaccines are made. As with other medicines, vaccines are tested thoroughly before Health Canada approves them for use. Even after vaccines are in use, Health Canada continues to monitor them to see if any side effects appear.

• Vaccines do work. The fact that some people get the disease after being vaccinated doesn’t mean that vaccines are ineffective. Like just about everything else in life, vaccines are not absolutely 100% effective, so there is a chance that some people will not develop immunity to the disease after receiving the vaccine. However, even if a person does contract the disease, it is likely to be less severe than if the person had not been vaccinated.

Talk to your pharmacist about what vaccines are right for you and your family, and take the necessary steps to safeguard your health against preventable diseases. You can also learn more about what vaccines are offered at London Drugs here.

April 20-27 is National Immunization Awareness Week

Immunization Week

For every vaccine administered at any London Drugs location in BC this week, a second lifesaving vaccine will be donated to immunize a child in another country.

To reinforce the importance of getting vaccinated and to help increase immunization rates, London Drugs has partnered with I Boost Immunity (IBI) as part of National Immunization Awareness Week (NIAW), which runs April 20 -27, 2019. For every vaccination administered this week at any London Drugs pharmacies in BC, a second lifesaving vaccine will be donated to UNICEF Canada through I Boost Immunity to immunize a child in another country.

“By getting vaccinated at London Drugs, British Columbians can play an active role in helping to protect tens of thousands of the world’s most vulnerable children from vaccine-preventable diseases,” says Shannon Turner, Executive Director of the Public Health Association of BC.

About 100 years ago, infectious diseases were the leading cause of death worldwide. Today, in Canada, those diseases now cause less than 5 per cent of all deaths, thanks largely to immunization programs in all provinces and territories.

With that said, vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles have been making a resurgence in recent months and London Drugs pharmacists are hoping to reinforce the importance and success of immunizations during National Immunization Awareness Week, which also coincides with Vaccination Week in the Americas and World Immunization Week.

Most parents of young children know that the best way to protect their kids is to have them vaccinated on schedule but it is important for adults to review their vaccination history to see if any immunizations are required.

“Even if you received vaccines as a child, the protection provided by some vaccines can wear off over time and may need to be updated. As you age, you may also be at more risk for other diseases due to your health conditions and travel habits, so additional vaccines may be required,” Gianni Del Negro, a Pharmacist at London Drugs.

Vaccines for pneumonia, shingles, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, and rubella are all available at London Drugs. Common travel vaccinations are also available at some pharmacies to prevent illnesses like hepatitis A and B, yellow fever, typhoid, and traveler’s diarrhea.

Patients can simply call the London Drugs pharmacy nearest them to book an appointment to have a vaccination administered. Appointments for Travel Immunization Clinics can also be booked online.

“Simply by getting vaccinated, you can make a global impact, providing life-saving vaccinations to children worldwide. At the same time, you are taking care of your own health needs and potentially saving the lives of people in your community as well,” adds Shannon Turner.

Health Tips Video: Do You Need to Update Your Immunizations?

Do you need an update on your immunizations?

Immunization, or vaccination, is a marvel of medical science. Immunization protects people from diseases by introducing viruses and bacteria to their bodies in a safe way, triggering their immune systems to start producing antibodies. These antibodies then protect them if they encounter these disease-causing agents in the wild, either reducing the likelihood of developing the disease or eliminating it entirely.

Since the invention of vaccines, immunization has eradicated smallpox and dramatically reduced the incidence of other diseases like polio. Countries like Canada provide childhood vaccinations for diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, and more diseases in order to protect children and the population at large.

Do You Need Adult Booster Shots?

As London Drugs pharmacist Gianni Del Negro notes in the video below, childhood immunizations do not always provide lifetime immunity. It’s important to check your vaccination history to see if you need any adult booster shots.

How do you know if you need additional vaccinations? It’s okay if you can’t find your childhood immunization records. Thanks to provincial vaccination schedules, your pharmacist or doctor can figure out when you last received various vaccinations and whether you’re due for more.

If you’re a parent, keep track of your child’s immunization records. They may be required when registering your child for daycare or school.

Recommended Vaccinations for Adults

Some immunizations are recommended for adults

Some vaccinations are recommended for every adult, like diphtheria and tetanus. Booster shots for those diseases are recommended every 10 years. Others, like the shingles vaccination, are recommended for adults over 60.

Other vaccinations may be recommended by your pharmacist depending on your travel plans, lifestyle, or age. If you like to garden, for example, it’s important to get a booster shot for tetanus. If you’re a parent or a grandparent, you may need a booster for pertussis.

And everyone should be getting their flu shot every year!

You don’t necessarily need to see your doctor to see if you need any additional immunization. Visit London Drugs and talk to a pharmacist. They can check your immunization status and, depending on what vaccines you may need, give you your shots in store.

To check your immunization status or learn more about adult vaccinations, visit your local London Drugs pharmacy.