Vaccinations are one of the most important defenses against dangerous diseases. They protect our bodies by giving our immune systems a glimpse at the diseases that are really out there. And this little sneak peek makes all the difference!

My son loves to play “fight-to-the-death” imaginary games. He will take his little foam sword and hide behind a curtain, under a desk, or behind a couch and pop out when I’m least expecting it – or so he thinks! I know what my son looks like and his favourite hiding spots. It’s not that hard to find him and anticipate those little jabs. Now, imagine that my son was disguised as furniture, and I was searching for him but couldn’t distinguish him from the other furniture. It would be so much harder to find him because he looks like everything else! Kapow! That little foam sword is sharper when you didn’t see it coming! This is what our immune systems deal with every day.

Vaccinations come into the mix. Vaccinations are literally made up of pieces of viruses so our immune systems can learn to recognize the virus without getting sick. Yes, our bodies are tricked into thinking it’s the real deal, so we get immune response symptoms like fevers, but not the symptoms associated with the disease – like vomiting! Vaccinations peel back the disguises so our immune systems are that much more prepared because they are given the power of recognition. We fight off diseases much more effectively, experience less symptoms, and don’t carry diseases to other people.

Once our immune systems are given this glimpse of the potential disease, it carries the memory forward, enabling us to build up a resistance to the actual disease, which could be very dangerous otherwise (click here).

Herd Immunity

There are some folks out there that can’t get vaccinated. I know one of them! She is a nurse (no joke!) and she is unable to be vaccinated because she has a certain allergy to the metal in the needle. Now, thanks to the vast majority of the population that is vaccinated, the chances that she will run in to someone carrying a very dangerous disease is slim (but not impossible!). She is lucky, thus far, and also has the power of being the right age and having a healthy body. If she does contract something, she is likely able to fight it off with a few days in hospital. Others, like babies or the elderly, are susceptible to more detrimental effects, so it is that much more important that everyone who can, get vaccinated to protect others (click here)!

Where to Get Vaccinations

Now that you know the benefits of vaccinations, you’re probably wondering where to go! The Immunization Program in Alberta is free to those with Alberta Health Care cards. To find the location nearest to you, call Health Link at 811. Likewise, your doctor will give you the location information of the one that applies to you and your children. When you have a new baby, it’s likely that there will be a location designated to you based on where you live.

Routine Immunization Schedule

When I had my first child, I ensured he was immunized right on schedule, practically to the day that was recommended. With my second, being a busier Mom, we ended up doubling up on appointments after missing some scheduled days. We were very fortunate that we did not cross paths with a virus during this time of catch-up. This is because the vaccination schedule has been adapted from years of research by hundreds of doctors and virologists. The range of dates given to have a child vaccinated is based on the child’s likeliness to contract a virus as well as their ability to combat the vaccine (the immune systems response). If you’d like to read more on the prescribed vaccination routines for children, there is a very long book called The Childhood Immunization Schedule and Safety. Not shockingly, a very long synopsis is also available, and can be found here.

Immunizing on schedule ensures your child gets the maximum possible protection from vaccine-preventable diseases and gives your child the best immunity possible.

The schedule outlined below has been in effect in Alberta since January 1, 2019 (click here).

2 months (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (whooping cough), Hepatitis B, Polio, and Haemophilus influenzae type b, Pneumococcal conjugate, and Rotavirus)

4 months (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (whooping cough), Hepatitis B, Polio, and Haemophilus influenzae type b, Pneumococcal conjugate, Meningococcal conjugate, Rotavirus)

6 months (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (whooping cough), Hepatitis B, Polio, and Haemophilus influenzae type b, Pneumococcal conjugate, Rotavirus)

6 months and older (annual Influenza 2)

12 months (Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Varicella (Chickenpox), Meningococcal conjugate, Pneumococcal conjugate)

18 months (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (whooping cough), Hepatitis B, Polio, and Haemophilus influenzae type b)

4 years  (Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis (whooping cough), Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Varicella (Chickenpox))

Grade 6                (Hepatitis B, Human papillomavirus)

Grade 9                (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (whooping cough), Meningococcal conjugate)

When listed out like that, it certainly does seem like a lot! However, usually only one needle is given at each appointment – lucky for those wee babes and the heartbroken parents!

Immunization Records and Statistics

If you are reading this and can’t recall your child’s last vaccine – don’t fret! Immunization records are kept by Alberta Health Services (AHS) at the health zone level. However, this has only been recently done and records for us older generations are unlikely to be found. If it has been more than 7 to 10 years since your last immunization, AHS may not have a copy of the record. But the records will be available for your child or children! If you have questions about your immunization records, contact Health Link at 811.

A Moment to Consider

“And when I knew that that’s what they had, and I knew that there was a fairly recent vaccine for rotavirus, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh. Maybe we didn’t have to just suffer through this.’” – Kirsten O’Meara, Mother of three

Hope you and your family benefit from this info! Please share your comments below!