Manager of Immunization Initiatives, Canadian Public Health Association
Mediaplanet chatted with Antonella Pucci Manager of Immunization Initiatives at the Canadian Public Health Association.
During National Immunization Awareness Week, what are the most important messages that Canadians should take away?
Immunize Canada’s theme for National Immunization Awareness Week (NIAW) 2023 is “Let’s catch up with confidence!” The most important takeaway from this message is for Canadians to get up to date on any vaccinations they missed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccines are safe and effective, and the best way to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities from vaccine-preventable diseases.
What impact has COVID-19 had on routine immunization?
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many routine immunization programs in Canada, including school-based immunization programs, came to a grinding halt. As public health measures were implemented to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep people safe, they resulted in the unfortunate consequence of limiting people’s ability to access vaccines, especially due to the closures of schools and many clinics. This not only left countless people needing to catch up on their routine immunizations but also left the door open for the resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases. This is why getting up to date on any missed immunizations is so important. Immunize Canada encourages all Canadians to get caught up on the vaccines they need.
Why is it important for Canadians to stay up to date on routine immunizations? And what are the consequences of not staying up to date with immunizations?
It is important for Canadians to stay up to date on their routine immunizations for a variety of reasons! Vaccines not only help protect you from catching many communicable (and non-communicable) diseases, but they also help protect you from spreading these diseases to your loved ones and communities. Another important reason for Canadians to stay up to date on their immunizations is to help prevent the resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles and polio. If we do not stay up to date on our routine immunizations, we leave the door open for these diseases to re-emerge and cause outbreaks, leading to many people getting sick.
Can you explain community immunity and its benefits?
Community immunity (or herd immunity) is the idea that if a high percentage of people in a community are immune to a contagious disease (i.e. measles), the disease will no longer be able to spread as easily throughout that said community.
Getting vaccinated is the safest and most effective to build up community immunity against vaccine-preventable diseases.
People with some degree of immunity to a contagious disease are far less likely to catch and spread it to others, limiting the disease’s ability to spread. By limiting the ability for a disease to spread in a community, we protect ourselves and our whole community from that disease, including those who are more at risk, such as children too young to be vaccinated, and persons who are immune compromised. Getting vaccinated is the safest and most effective to build up community immunity against vaccine-preventable diseases
What are the most common vaccine misconceptions and what can be done to combat these misconceptions?
Some of the most common vaccine misconceptions revolve around their safety and effectiveness. These misconceptions include such tropes as “Vaccines are not safe”, “Vaccines cause you to catch the diseases they are meant to protect against”, and most notably, “Vaccines cause autism”. While these misconceptions are untrue, they can become deeply embedded thoughts in social circles, causing people to doubt the safety and benefits of vaccines.
There are various strategies to combat these misconceptions, but one of the most successful strategies is education. A great way to address vaccine misconceptions is by being compassionate to those who have questions and using plain and accessible language to present evidence-based information.
However, providing reliable and valid information about vaccines is an ongoing process and one that requires building trust with people and communities. Once trust is established, it can become easier to communicate with others about the importance of vaccines, and teach them about media literacy and how to recognize misinformation about vaccines online.