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SAVING LIVES

- Vaccines Are Safe and Effective, Health Unit Says, in Urging Area Residents to Stay Up-to-Date on Immunizations -

While vaccines have been a major shot in the arm to protect people from diseases in the past, health officials continue to stress the importance of staying up-to-date on immunizations in the here and now.

Immunization is considered one of the major medical breakthroughs of the last century. In fact, immunization has saved more lives in Canada in the past 50 years than any other health intervention, according to Immunize Canada, a national partnership that promotes the understanding and use of vaccines.

“Vaccines are safe and effective, and they certainly have continued relevance in the 21st century,” says Linda McCarey, Director of Communicable Disease Control with the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit. The local Health Unit is among many organizations marking Immunization Awareness Week (April 20 to 27) across the country. For McCarey, the timing is opportune to promote the value of vaccination to residents in the area.

“It wasn’t that long ago that diseases like diphtheria, polio, tetanus, whooping cough and measles took a dreadful and deadly toll on people,” McCarey says. “Today, because of wide-spread vaccination efforts, illnesses and deaths from these vaccine-preventable diseases have been dramatically reduced.”

Ontario provides publicly-funded vaccines that are recommended to people of all ages to protect against various diseases. More information and a full list of these vaccines is available by contacting the Health Unit (1-866-888-4577 or www.hkpr.on.ca) or visiting one of its offices in Port Hope, Brighton, Lindsay or Haliburton. “It’s important that families follow the schedule of vaccines to ensure they and their loved ones are fully protected against disease,” says McCarey. “Without ongoing immunization, we risk the return of harmful diseases that can normally be controlled by vaccination.”

There is a lot of misinformation and skepticism about vaccines readily available on the Internet, she adds. Evidence-based reviews around the world reject any link between autism and vaccines, including the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. Still, the myth persists, fueled in part by a 1998 paper by Dr. Andrew Wakefield that ran in a British medical journal. That British study has since been proven to be a fraud, Dr. Wakefield has been found guilty of serious professional misconduct, and the medical journal has retracted the original article.

For credible online sources of information about vaccines, McCarey encourages people to visit the Canadian Paediatric Society, Immunize Canada, and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

To be used in Canada, vaccines are developed with the highest standards. On average, it takes about 10 years of research and development before a vaccine is considered for approval by Health Canada. Once available for use, federal regulators continually monitor vaccines for safety and effectiveness with the help of public health staff and health care providers.

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For media inquiries, contact:

Linda McCarey, Director of Communicable Disease Control, HKPR District Health Unit, (905) 885-9100, or 1-866-888-4577.

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