Interior Health is reminding parents and caregivers to make sure their children’s immunizations are up to date. This timely reminder comes as pertussis cases continue to occur in several Interior Health communities.
Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a serious infection of the lungs and throat. Pertussis can affect individuals of any age; however, its effects are most severe among infants who are too young to be fully immunized.
“Pertussis starts with symptoms similar to the common cold – a runny nose, sore throat and a mild fever. It then progresses to a cough that can become severe. In some cases, the cough may include the classic whooping sound and it may be accompanied by gasping, gagging, shortness of breath and vomiting,” said Dr. Silvina Mema, Medical Health Officer with Interior Health. “Young infants are at highest risk of complications, which include pneumonia, seizures, brain damage and even death.”
Immunization is the best way to prevent the spread of pertussis. The vaccine is part of BC’s routine childhood immunization schedule. A complete series consists of three doses of pertussis vaccine at 2, 4, and 6 months followed by boosters at 18 months old and at 4-6 years of age (Kindergarten). Because immunity to pertussis from childhood vaccines wanes over time, it is also recommended that a booster is given at 14 to 16 years of age (Grade 9).
“The BC Immunization Schedule is based on scientific evidence. It has been developed to protect children from getting diseases at the times when they are most at risk,” added Dr. Mema. “Because of this it is very important that children are up to date with their immunizations.”
Nick Robinson, a father of two boys believes strongly that getting his children immunized is an important part of being a parent and a community member.
“I believe everyone has a role to play to protect the community from vaccine preventable diseases and outbreaks,” said Robinson. “I think there is a tendency for people to question immunization because they think the natural ways are safer but that’s not always the case. Polio is natural, death from measles is natural – any risks from vaccinations are tiny by comparison. As parents, we have paid close attention to the evidence; for us, it was a no-brainer to give our kids all the recommended vaccines on time.”
High immunization rates are the key to preventing diseases like pertussis from affecting our communities. When most people are vaccinated for a disease, it makes it harder for the disease to spread from person to person. This is known as “herd immunity”, which helps ensure those who are most vulnerable to diseases are protected. In Interior Health, 68 per cent of children are fully up to date with all the recommended immunizations by two years of age.
For more information on immunization:
· Call your local public health centre. To find a health centre near you visit the website: http://www.interiorhealth.ca
· Read our immunization page : http://www.interiorhealth.ca/YourHealth/Immunization/Pages/default.aspx.