Ask any parent today if they have ever kept their child away from a park or beach because they were worried that she would get polio and they'll look at you as if you are crazy.
But talk to your grandparents and they will remember not just polio scares, but children catching and all too often dying from whooping cough, diphtheria or tetanus.
The introduction of regular vaccines has made those diseases preventable and is saving the lives of our children. Smallpox has been eradicated globally and polio no longer exists in Canada. We no longer see massive outbreaks of measles, mumps or whooping cough.
Vaccines save lives and are eradicating diseases that can kill children.
We need to know what vaccinations our children need. It's our job to do our best to keep our children healthy and safe. To that end, it's key for parents to inform themselves with credible and accurate data and have honest conversations with their doctor or nurse about ways to protect their children.
"As kids head back to school, it is a perfect time for parents to think about ensuring their children are fully protected against vaccine-preventable diseases," said B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake.
"Here in B.C., we have a comprehensive publicly funded immunization program for children and adults that protects against 16 diseases."
While serious childhood diseases such as polio and diphtheria are becoming rare due to routine childhood vaccination programs, according to Vancouver Coastal Health Medical Health Officer Dr. Meena Dawar, there's still cause for concern.
"As we saw with the recent measles outbreaks in the Fraser Valley, and on the North Shore and Bowen Island, these diseases are highly infectious and can spread quickly among those who aren't vaccinated."
VCH medical health officers advise that all children starting at age four get their booster shots to protect against polio, tetanus, diphtheria, chicken pox and whooping cough before kindergarten starts in September.
Dawar emphasizes that vaccines, including combined doses, are safe and can pose minor, if any, side effects. "It's much safer to get the vaccine than to get the disease," she says. "If parents have any concerns, they should always speak with their doctor or a public health nurse."
During kindergarten registration parents are asked to submit their child's immunization record to their school. If someone at school contracts a vaccinepreventable infectious disease, children who are unprotected may be asked to stay home until it is safe to return.
Vaccines can be obtained for free from family doctors or from public health nurses at VCH community health centres. For VCH's kindergarten immunization clinic times, visit vch.ca. To learn more about immunizations download the booklet "Immunization: An important choice you make for your child."
It's not just a question of keeping our children free from preventable diseases; we are also protecting the community. When all the kids are immunized, all children are free from the risk of these potentially serious diseases.
Kathy Lynn is a professional speaker and author of Who's In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I'd Ever Have to Leave Home. To read more, sign up for her newsletter at parentingtoday.ca.
© Copyright 2013