Is your child at high risk for vaccine-preventable disease?

As a parent, you have automatically become a risk management specialist, whether you know it or not. That doesn't mean you're like a mortgage broker or insurance company, however. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines risk management in general terms as a process of weighing alternatives to accept, minimize, or reduce known risks and to select and use appropriate options. In simpler terms, it means weighing the pros versus the cons before you decide to do something.

This means you, as a parent, are a risk manager of your child's well-being. After all, you do your best to reduce the risk of their getting harmed. And one of the many risks you should manage is how best to protect your child from being infected with a vaccine-preventable disease. There are a few situations where your child may have a higher than average risk.

Children whose vaccinations are not up to date: To get the best possible protection, your child needs to receive all vaccine doses on time. Look at your provincial immunization guidelines to determine if your child has received all their vaccinations. If your child has missed a vaccine dose, is starting immunizations later in life, or is missing information from their immunization record (e.g., after coming to Canada from a country with different immunization schedules), talk to your child's health care professional (HCP) about getting caught up with your child's vaccination schedule.

Children travelling abroad: Children travelling abroad may need extra vaccinations or an accelerated (faster than usual) childhood vaccination schedule to help protect them against vaccine-preventable diseases found at their destination. Visit a travel clinic at least 6 to 8 weeks before your trip to find out which vaccines you and your child may need.

Children with certain health conditions: Certain health conditions and procedures may put your child at higher risk of vaccine-preventable diseases:

  • premature birth
  • sickle cell disease
  • a weakened immune system, including HIV infection or an inherited immune system disease, or taking medications that suppress the immune system (such as certain medications for cancer, organ transplants, or rheumatoid arthritis)
  • a chronic medical condition, such as kidney disease, liver disease, heart disease, lung disease, certain neurologic conditions, or diabetes
  • cancer
  • a chronic leak of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)
  • cochlear implants
  • organ transplant or bone marrow transplant
  • lack of a working spleen

If your child has one of these health conditions, talk to your child's HCP about which vaccines they should have and whether your HCP recommends any other vaccinations for your child.

It's important to remember that vaccines are important for all children, not just those in these high-risk groups. Vaccines help protect children against serious diseases that can cause death or serious health problems.

Vaccines are not intended to be used for treatment of an active infection, and they do not protect against types of germs that are not included in the vaccine. Vaccines may not protect 100% of people who have them, and they may cause side effects. Speak to your HCP if you have any concerns.

Remember, you are the risk manager of your child's well-being. Reduce their risk of vaccine-preventable disease by making sure their vaccinations are up to date. Talk to your child's HCP to learn more about reducing your child's risk of vaccine-preventable diseases.

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