The importance of immunization

The following is a story submitted by Georgina Green, a Public Health Nurse with Northern Health, as part of the national immunization week from April 25th-May 2.

In 1998, a study published in the United Kingdom resulted in widespread misconceptions about vaccines and a subsequent decline in immunization rates; many parents began choosing not to give their children any immunizations at all. At that time, I was working as a pediatric nurse in a Paediatric High Dependency Unit, which is where the very sickest of children were admitted. Unfortunately, we admitted a 15 month old toddler with meningitis C, which is a vaccine preventable disease.

Meningococcal C is a bacteria that causes an infection of the fluid and lining that covers the brain and spinal cord and septicemia which is an infection of the blood. For every 100 children who get sick with meningococcal C disease, 15 will die. Those that do survive can be left with permanent complications such as brain damage and deafness.

After a week in the High Dependency Unit, the toddler started to recover but unfortunately was left with severe brain damage, seizures, deafness and lost both feet due to septicemia. During my time working within the High Dependency Unit, I saw many other cases that were similar; all had heartbreaking outcomes. After a while I was lucky enough to secure a position in a Paediatric Palliative respite facility, where I nursed this same child on and off for the next 12 months until sadly, she died from further complications.

I want to share my story and highlight the importance of immunizations, to ensure that no other family has to suffer the loss of a child in this way. I still see how the misconceptions from this study have affected immunization rates, even in Canada; that parents and the general public still have concerns around vaccine safety. What I do know is that this child’s life would have been saved had she received the meningitis C immunization to prevent this infection.

It’s easy to forget the severity and heartbreak associated with communicable disease that thankfully, we rarely see today. This is due to the overwhelming success of modern immunization programs in reducing the incidences of these horrific diseases.

Immunization – It’s a family affair. Please protect your loved ones and your community by ensuring that all members of your family are up-to-date on their vaccinations.

National Immunization Awareness week is an annual event to highlight the importance of protecting Canadians from vaccine-preventable diseases and will be held April 25 – May 2, 2009.

  •              · It is important to get ALL vaccines on time, following the BC schedule for immunizations.
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  •              · Vaccines are safe; they are thoroughly tested and monitored.
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  •              · Immunization is important throughout the lifespan.
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  •              · Vaccines protect individuals, families and communities from disease.We must continue                      to immunize or we will see an increase in the diseases we are immunizing against.

Please call your local Public Health Unit if you have questions or would like to book an appointment for immunization. You can also visit www.immunizeBC.ca or call 8-1-1 to speak with a registered nurse.

Georgina Green

Public Health Nurse

Northern Health

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