Vaccines are so effective that most of the diseases that they help to prevent are now rare in Canada. Canadian children can be protected against many potentially dangerous childhood diseases like measles, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), diphtheria, tetanus, certain types of meningitis, chickenpox, rotavirus, and polio.
What would happen if we stopped vaccinating? In other countries, when fewer people were immunized, diseases quickly increased or returned. For example:
- In 2000, the number of measles cases in Ireland increased from 148 to more than 1,200 in just one year because vaccination was reduced to 76%. Several children died.
- In 1999, there was a large outbreak of rubella (German measles) in Nebraska. The more than 90 adults who were affected had not previously been vaccinated, and most of them came from countries where rubella vaccine is not routine.
- After a routine vaccination was cancelled in Russia, there were about 1,500 deaths due to diphtheria in 1995. In previous years, Russia, like Canada, had only a few cases of diphtheria each year and no deaths.
But do the benefits of vaccination outweigh the possible side effects? The short answer is yes. If there were no vaccines, there would be many more cases of disease, more serious complications from disease, and more deaths. The diseases that vaccines help prevent lead to pneumonia, deafness, brain damage, heart problems, blindness, severe diarrhea, and paralysis in children who are not vaccinated. Canadian children are very fortunate to have vaccines for diseases that still kill and disable children throughout the world every day. For most people, the risks of not being vaccinated are much greater than any risk of vaccination itself. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns.
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