The sun is beginning to warm the earth, trees are budding, and the season of new arrivals begins. Parents who are welcoming a baby into the household, or ushering children outside to play after a long winter may want to take a moment to think about immunization.
The natural immune protection that babies derive from their mother’s antibodies lasts only for the first year of life. 1a Vaccines contain tiny amounts of viruses or bacteria that trigger a child's immune system to produce antibodies of their own to attack the virus or bacteria and help prevent the disease. 1b Find out what’s recommended for infants and children, and know where to go for the vaccinations your family needs.
In Canada, routine vaccinations are offered free of charge to children in all provinces and territories against the following preventable diseases. The hepatitis B vaccine is given alone, while the other vaccines are generally combined as listed here so they can be provided in fewer injections. Vaccinations are given according to specific schedules that usually start when your baby is two months old.
- Diphtheria, tetanus (lockjaw), pertussis (whooping cough), polio, Haemophilus influenza type b disease
- rubella (German measles), measles (red measles), mumps
- hepatitis B 1c
Additional vaccines that protect against varicella (chickenpox), influenza, and some forms of meningitis may be recommended for some children. These are not given routinely across Canada; discuss your child’s needs with your health care provider. 1d Ask your vaccine provider for a written record so you can keep track of your child’s vaccinations. Help your children get a great start in life by making sure they receive the right shots at the right time, and keeping their records as well as their immunizations up to date.
Stay safer outdoors
When children are young and eager for adventure, parents may be torn between keeping them safe and letting them explore the great outdoors. Vaccination can help protect youngsters against two potential, and thankfully rare, backyard hazards: Consider the time-honoured childhood tradition of making mud pies, and the attraction many children have toward animals of all stripes. Soil contains a potent neurotoxin, Clostridium tetani, which can cause tetanus, 2a and animals can carry rabies.
Tetanus is an acute and often fatal disease generally caused by contamination of wounds with soil or animal/human feces, 2a and is relatively rare these days. Since the introduction of routine immunization to protect against tetanus in Canada in 1940, deaths due to tetanus infection have declined from 40-50 per year to an average of 4 per year in recent decades. 2b It is recommended that all Canadians receive initial immunization for tetanus during childhood followed by routine booster doses every 10 years. 2c Adverse reactions to tetanus vaccination are rare, especially in children, so why not start right now, in time for mud pie season?
Rabies is a serious potentially fatal disease, 3a and of particular concern in young children (especially boys), who are at an estimated four times greater risk than adults. 3b This is in part because children may not understand either the need to avoid animals or the importance of reporting potential exposure due to a bite or contact with saliva or infected tissue from an infected animal. 3c Animals in Canada most often proven rabid include skunks, foxes, raccoons, bats, cattle, and stray dogs and cats. 3d In addition to immunization, animal-loving children should be taught to avoid (and report) contact with wild or unknown animals.
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This information should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your doctor. There may be variations in treatment that your physician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
Note: the hyperlinks that direct to other sites are not continuously updated. It is possible that some links become untraceable over time. Thank you.
- It's Your Health - Childhood Immunization
- Tetanus Toxoid - Canadian Immunization Guide - Seventh Edition - 2006 - Public Health Agency of Canada
- Questions and Answers on Rabies - Immunization & Vaccines - Public Health Agency Canada