It’s the last day of National Immunization Week and World Immunization Week.  

Dr. David Torr, a medical health officer with Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), said that SHA wants to highlight the importance of vaccination in our communities, which has been waning in some areas. “There’s been changes over the last little while where people are more relaxed about immunizations and forgetting that we used to have a lot of these vaccine-preventable diseases before we had the vaccines.” 

Torr pointed to vaccine-preventable diseases such as whooping cough, tetanus, diphtheria, measles, and mumps, that can lead to severe complications.  

Torr said that there’s been an international resurgence of cases of these diseases due to a drop in immunization rates, particularly measles. “We need immunization – not only to protect our own children and our own families but also for the protection of the whole community.” 

Torr said they want to see vaccination rates approaching 95 per cent for herd immunity, but said there are variations, with some places only having immunization rates of 40 per cent. “That does not protect 60 per cent of the other people who are not immunized, and that puts such a community at a disadvantage.” 

“We have a lot of folks visiting from some of these areas where there’s a lot of measles and can bring the measles in, and if our own communities are not up to par with immunizations, easily we can start seeing those infections,” explained Torr. 

He pointed to a recent case of measles in Saskatchewan. “Thankfully the people who were around that person were all vaccinated and up to date with their vaccinations, so we didn’t have any secondary spread of the measles.” 

For those who are anxious about vaccine safety, Torr said strict safety protocols are in place, and side effects are typically mild. “Social media has been an advantage and a disadvantage for us, and it scares a lot of folks.” 

“Unfortunately, what is mentioned in there is always ‘oh, there’s a one in a million chance that you might get this complication from a vaccine,’ but what is not mentioned is that the risk of that complication from the actual disease may be 20 times more than with the vaccine. It’s a risk versus benefit effect.” 

Torr said that people should also be checking their immunization records on MySaskHealthRecord or contact Saskatchewan Public Health.