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Germ Guy

Share the Health

Family togetherness is important for everyone’s wellbeing. In sharing time and living space, families also may share germs. Preventing the spread of common and not-so-common illnesses by keeping everyone’s vaccinations up to date is just one more way that families can stand united and protect their health.

Looking back

Baby boomers may have experienced an episode of German measles (rubella) at their school, and recall the concern it raised for young mothers and women of child bearing age. While the symptoms are generally mild in children and adults, the effects can be devastating when pregnant women are exposed to rubella. Infants born to women infected with rubella during the first trimester of pregnancy have up to a 90% risk of congenital rubella syndrome (CRS), which can cause heart defects, cataracts, mental retardation and/or deafness.

Since 1971 when the rubella vaccine came into use in Québec, the number of children younger than 4 years of age who caught rubella each year has fallen from about 5,000 to fewer than 30. Although vaccination does not guarantee immunity, the vast majority of vaccine-preventable infectious diseases occur in unvaccinated individuals. Ongoing immunization is important to protect against the risk of rubella being imported from countries where it is still common.

Strength in numbers

Immunization to protect against diphtheria is still standard for Canadian infants, even though the threat of the disease has long been considered a thing of the past. Yet before the vaccine for diphtheria was introduced in Canada back in the 1930s, the disease claimed an estimated 9,000 lives every year. Since then, it is responsible for only one death, or none at all, every year.

That is no reason to become complacent about vaccination, as we can learn from Russia’s experience. About 20 years ago, following Russia’s suspension of organized immunization, there were over 150,000 cases and 5,000 deaths from diphtheria. These highly contagious diseases can return with a vengeance when rates of immunization in a population decline. That’s because we lose the benefit of so-called herd immunity – when it comes to vaccinations, there is strength in numbers. When we, as individuals, keep our immunizations up to date, we are helping to protect others who may not be able to have vaccines due to certain health conditions.

Vaccinations for both diphtheria and rubella are recommended for babies, beginning at the age of 2 months for diphtheria and 12 months for rubella. Both are combined with other vaccines. Several doses are provided over time to establish and maintain protection. Share the health – make sure each member of your family is immunized against preventable diseases.


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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.

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Note: the hyperlinks that direct to other sites are not continuously updated. It is possible that some links become untraceable over time. Thank you.

  1. World Health Organization. Rubella and Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS).
  2. Vaccinate Your Baby: History of Disease Eradication. 
  3. Canadian data on the results of certain immunization programs - Vaccination - Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux.
  4. Corynebacterium diphtheriae - Pathogen Safety Data Sheets - Public Health Agency of Canada.