Healthy Living in the North

Keeping children safe and healthy with routine immunizations

I’m drawn to the topic of immunization for National Immunization Awareness Week, which this year is April 23-30. It’s a chance to highlight the importance of routine immunizations and focus on accurate and up-to-date information and resources. It’s also a good time to reflect on the fact that in the last 50 years, immunization has saved more lives than any other intervention.

Immunization is one of the best ways parents can ensure their children stay healthy and protected from certain vaccine-preventable diseases!

During the first two years of a child’s life, they are very vulnerable and can be susceptible to many vaccine-preventable diseases. These diseases can have serious health consequences for many infants and young children. In some cases, they can be deadly.

National Immunization Awareness Week poster

“For the best protection, it’s recommended that parents follow the routine schedule and ensure all shots are given on time.”

In B.C., infants and young children aged 0-5 are given free vaccines that provide protection from the following diseases:

  • Tetanus
  • Diphtheria
  • Pertussis (whooping cough)
  • Hepatitis B
  • Polio
  • Haemophilus Influenza type B (Hib)
  • Meningococcal
  • Pneumococcal
  • Varicella
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Rubella (German Measles)
  • Rotavirus
  • Influenza
  • Hepatitis A (vaccine provided to Aboriginal children only)

The current immunization schedule for infants and children in B.C. has infants starting with their first set of immunizations at two months of age followed by immunizations at four months, six months, 12 months, 18 months, and kindergarten entry.

For the best protection, it’s recommended that parents follow the routine schedule and ensure all shots are given on time.

Here are six reasons from ImmunizeBC.ca why it’s best to follow the routine schedule:

  1. The routine schedule is based on the best science of today.
  2. The routine schedule is safe and works very well.
  3. You will ensure your child is protected as soon as they can be.
  4. You will reduce your child’s risk of anxiety and needle fear.
  5. The risk of side effects is the same whether vaccines are given together or separately.
  6. You will reduce the number of visits and time spent getting your child’s shots.

In B.C., parents can take their children to their local health unit for immunizations.

Have questions or want more information?

  • Call your local health unit and speak to a public health nurse.
  • Speak to your family doctor or primary health care provider.
  • Call HealthLinkBC (dial 8-1-1). They’re open 24 hours!
  • Visit ImmunizeBC.ca

About Patricia Strim

Photo and bio coming soon!

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National Immunization Awareness Week – 100,000 Vaccine Challenge

Nurses with I Boost Immunity t-shirts in a group photo

Northern Health nurses are boosting immunity – how will you be marking Immunization Awareness Week?

This week is National Immunization Awareness Week and it’s a great time to think about the importance of immunizations! I’m celebrating by taking the “100,000 Vaccine Challenge” with I Boost Immunity and I want to challenge you to take part, too! Together, we can help vaccinate children around the world!

Here’s how it works

I Boost Immunity encourages ordinary people like you to do a series of fun and informative online quizzes. For each right answer, one vaccine is donated to UNICEF Canada. You can also share articles and stories about the importance of vaccination through your social networks. The more you do on the site to learn and share, the more vaccines you earn in support of UNICEF Canada. It’s that simple. I’ll be taking quizzes all week and hope that you’ll join me!

The online quizzes start easy but get more challenging as you level up. You can also form teams and earn achievement badges along the way. Do practically anything on I Boost Immunity and you’ll earn vaccines!

Check out I Boost Immunity and get clicking to help us reach 100,000 vaccines by April 30th!

Carlin Miroslaw

About Carlin Miroslaw

Based in Houston, Carlin is the interim Communications Liaison Nurse for Northern Health. Her role focuses on promoting immunization awareness and supporting internal and external communications. Having lived in the North for over 30 years, Carlin has pursued her outdoor passions of hiking, swimming, canoeing, biking, skiing, and gardening.

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Protect yourself against tetanus this spring!

Couple hiking in forest.

Planning on heading outdoors this season? Make sure that your tetanus immunizations are up-to-date!

The temperature outside is finally above zero, which has provided me with a burst of spring energy! Most of us have long awaited the first signs of spring and are now ready to enjoy the temperate outdoors. Hiking is one of my favourite outdoor activities to do once the snow has melted so I make an effort to ensure my tetanus shot is up-to-date before I head out. Because tetanus is found in soil, any outdoor activity that has the potential for cuts, scrapes, or animal bites comes with the risk of tetanus infection.

Tetanus is caused by the toxin of a nasty little bacterium that gets into breaks in our skin and leads to excruciating muscle cramps and sometimes even death. Scary, right? Gardening, using outdoor machinery and getting too close to wild animals are also common sources of infection.

There is no cure for tetanus. Early recognition and prompt treatment including wound and supportive care, as well as the prompt administration of tetanus toxoid and tetanus immune globulin, may decrease the severity of the disease. The trick to protecting yourself? Getting your routine publicly-funded tetanus immunization! Infection with tetanus is uncommon in Canada because of immunization. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends routine childhood immunization against tetanus and routine tetanus and diphtheria boosters for adults. Are your immunizations up to date? Don’t let tetanus cramp your outdoor style!

To find out if your tetanus immunizations are up-to-date, contact your local public health unit. Visit Northern Health’s website for local health unit contact information as well for more information on tetanus and other vaccine-preventable illnesses.

Beth Munk

About Beth Munk

Beth was born and raised as a true northerner in Prince George, where she completed her nursing degree at UNBC in 2013. She relocated to Dawson Creek two years ago to pursue her dream job in preventive public health nursing and has loved getting to know her new community. Beth loves any outdoor activity, from hiking to soccer, and has much love and appreciation for nature. In her spare time, she can be found exploring waterfalls with her fiancé in the Peace River area or enjoying time spent at her family cabin in Prince George.

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Did you know there is a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer?

You’ve probably heard about the vaccine that protects against human papillomavirus (HPV) but do you know much about it or why it is important for our health?

In the spirit of National Immunization Awareness Week, I would like to highlight this particular topic that continues to get media attention and is sometimes a point of concern for parents considering vaccinations for their school-aged children. I’ve also seen many young women in sexual health and immunization clinics who have had questions and misunderstandings about this immunization. In my experience, people are often ready to dismiss a vaccine when they’re uncertain of its safety or efficacy or if they’re uncertain of whether they’re even really at risk for the illness that the vaccine is preventing. This hesitation is understandable, right? We want to make sure that we are choosing health interventions that are necessary and safe for ourselves and our children. Well, hopefully I can help shed some light on this sometimes controversial topic!

The HPV vaccine protects against the virus that causes almost all cervical cancers. Cervical cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in women. Two types of HPV vaccines are approved for use in Canada: Cervarix® (HPV2) and Gardasil® (HPV4). Both vaccines protect against infection from HPV types 16 and 18 that cause about 70% of cervical cancers, 80% of anal cancers, and other cancers such as cancers of the mouth and throat, penis, vagina, and vulva. The HPV4 vaccine also protects against infection from HPV types 6 and 11 that cause about 90% of genital warts cases. The vaccines are approved by Health Canada and are provincially-funded (i.e., free) for girls and women aged 9-26. HPV4 vaccine is also recommended, but not provided free, for the following people:

  • Adult women up to 45 years of age
  • Boys and men 9-26 years of age
  • Men 27 years of age and older who have sex with men

Those not eligible for free HPV vaccine can purchase it at most pharmacies and travel clinics.

Facts on cervical cancer in B.C.If you’re a parent with daughters or a young woman considering this vaccine, here are a few facts:

  • HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. 3 out of 4 sexually active Canadians have been infected at some point in their lives.
  • HPV infection is spread even with the use of condoms as it is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact.
  • HPV infection rates peak at adolescence and can go undetected for quite some time as HPV usually causes little to no symptoms. For the greatest benefit, it is recommended to receive the HPV vaccine prior to the onset of sexual activity.
  • Studies have shown that antibody levels in those who received the HPV vaccine were greater in individuals 9-15 years of age compared to those 16 years and older. The BC Centre for Disease Control has a great primer on antibodies and the role they play.
  • Studies have shown that HPV vaccine is safe and effective. Common reactions are similar to other injectable vaccines and may include soreness, redness and swelling at the injection site, muscle or joint ache, fatigue, or headache.

This is just some of the information available on HPV vaccination. If you wish to find out more, please speak to your doctor or contact your local public health nurse. You can also visit Northern Health, ImmunizeBC, HealthLinkBC, and the BC Centre for Disease Control.

Still have questions? Check out the video below that provides more information on HPV and the HPV vaccine. ImmunizeBC has a great bank of HPV videos, too!

Additional immunization and HPV resources:

Kyrsten Thomson

About Kyrsten Thomson

Based in Terrace, Kyrsten is a public health communications liaison nurse. Her role focuses on promoting immunization awareness and supporting internal and external communications. Kyrsten moved to Terrace seven years ago after graduating with a nursing degree in Ontario. As a student, she knew public health was her passion, especially work in health promotion and community development. She fell in love with the north and all the fantastic outdoor activities right at her fingertips. Since moving to the north, Kyrsten has started a family, taken up hiking, running, and enjoys spending summer days at the cabin.

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Timing is everything for routine immunizations

Child on mother's lap being given a vaccine by a nurse.

To ensure that your child has the best protection, don’t forget about boosters and 18-month vaccines. Vaccines are most effective if given at the right time as your child grows.

As a working mom expecting her third baby and running around after two busy school-aged children, I know a thing or two about scheduling! Balancing kids’ activities with work, family obligations, and household duties as well as trips to the dentist, optometrist and doctor involves a certain degree of time management and juggling skills. When you stick to a schedule, things tend to run more smoothly … usually!

That being said, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and derailed when the to-do list becomes longer than the hours in a day. Try as we might to keep organized, appointments are missed and sometimes you find yourself at the soccer field when you should be at the swimming pool!

Though I have been a public health nurse for seven years and place a priority on health-related visits including immunization appointments, I, too, am guilty of slipping up. My kids, like many, received their infant immunizations on time during their first 12 months. As life gets busier, 12-month-olds become more rambunctious, and some of the nerves of first-year parenting start to calm, it becomes especially important – albeit a bit more challenging – to remember boosters. You want to make sure those infant immunizations stay as effective as possible in protecting your child! When your child is 18 months old, it is important to keep on schedule with the rest of their immunization boosters in order to give them the best protection against vaccine preventable-illnesses.

Why is it important to keep vaccines on schedule anyway? The routine immunization program is designed to provide your child with the best protection at the most effective and safest ages and intervals. Completing all infant and childhood vaccines on schedule builds immunity that is lasting.

As you may have noticed at your child’s followup immunization appointments, subsequent vaccine doses are given. Some vaccines need to be given more than once to build your child’s immune system. Following the routine schedule will ensure the right spacing is maintained. Is it time to boost your toddler’s immunity?

At 18 months, make sure to stay on schedule with:

  • DTaP-IPV-Hib (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b)
  • Influenza (seasonal)
  • Hepatitis A (if eligible)

Contact your local health unit to find out if your child’s immunizations are up to date. You can also visit northernhealth.ca for more information on vaccine-preventable illnesses and immunizations.

To help keep track of your family’s immunization records, download the free ImmunizeCA app for Apple, Android, and Blackberry products.

Kyrsten Thomson

About Kyrsten Thomson

Based in Terrace, Kyrsten is a public health communications liaison nurse. Her role focuses on promoting immunization awareness and supporting internal and external communications. Kyrsten moved to Terrace seven years ago after graduating with a nursing degree in Ontario. As a student, she knew public health was her passion, especially work in health promotion and community development. She fell in love with the north and all the fantastic outdoor activities right at her fingertips. Since moving to the north, Kyrsten has started a family, taken up hiking, running, and enjoys spending summer days at the cabin.

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National Immunization Awareness Week

Group of nurses wearing I Boost Immunity T-shirts.

Northern Health staff in Fort St. John boost immunity – how about you? During National Immunization Awareness Week, think about how you might boost immunity!

In Canada, National Immunization Awareness Week (NIAW) is held annually in late April. NIAW is an opportunity to focus the attention of Canadians on the importance of vaccinations for all ages and to prompt citizens to ensure that immunizations are up-to-date for themselves and their loved ones.

Evidence clearly indicates that immunizations are the safest and most effective way to prevent vaccine-preventable diseases. Thanks to immunization programs across Canada, vaccine-preventable diseases now cause less than 5% of all deaths across the country. Over 100 years ago, these diseases were the leading cause of death worldwide. One does not have to look far into our history to uncover the devastation that vaccine-preventable diseases posed to the health and lives of Canadians.

Although we have come a long way in fighting infectious diseases, they continue to pose a significant threat to our health. You may recall recent outbreaks such as measles in southern Ontario and Quebec as well as pertussis in northwest B.C. So far, 140 cases of measles have been reported in 2015 in southern Ontario and Quebec and over 275 cases of pertussis have been reported in northern B.C. since January 2014.

Immunization protects individuals and communities by preventing the spread of disease. Those who are not vaccinated against common infectious diseases such as measles, chicken pox, influenza, pertussis, and human papillomavirus not only put their own health at risk, they also put the health of their family, friends and community at risk. As more people are immunized, the disease risk for everyone is reduced.

In the spirit of NIAW, British Columbians can join the I Boost Immunity campaign to help raise awareness about the value of immunization. I Boost Immunity is an advocacy platform based on the experiences of real families and individuals around B.C. who support vaccination. This initiative uses the power of social media to reach large audiences. There are many articles and stories readily available on this site which will help you to become an active supporter for immunization in your community. The more you participate, the more points you earn to cash in for prizes. Visit iboostimmunity.ca to sign up.

Immunization is the single most cost-effective health investment that has saved more lives in Canada in the past 50 years than any other health intervention. Talk to your doctor, nurse, pharmacist or local public health unit about staying up-to-date with immunizations.

Kyrsten Thomson

About Kyrsten Thomson

Based in Terrace, Kyrsten is a public health communications liaison nurse. Her role focuses on promoting immunization awareness and supporting internal and external communications. Kyrsten moved to Terrace seven years ago after graduating with a nursing degree in Ontario. As a student, she knew public health was her passion, especially work in health promotion and community development. She fell in love with the north and all the fantastic outdoor activities right at her fingertips. Since moving to the north, Kyrsten has started a family, taken up hiking, running, and enjoys spending summer days at the cabin.

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Immunize for your health

child, health, play, immunizations

Immunizations are a big part of keeping your little ones healthy!

Did you know that in the last 50 years, immunization has saved more lives than any other health intervention in Canada? Immunization works to protect you against specific diseases that can make you very sick or even kill you. Once you get immunized, your body works to make antibodies against that specific disease. Antibodies act as a defense for your body to protect you if you are exposed to the disease in the future.

April 26 to May 3 is National Immunization Awareness Week in Canada.

There can be a lot of confusing and misleading information on immunizations, so here are a few common questions and answers:

Q: We’ve been immunizing for a long time. Are the diseases gone? Is it safe to stop immunizing?
A: These diseases are still around. Some vaccine-preventable diseases are rare in Canada (e.g., diphtheria); however, history has shown that rates of disease increase if we stop immunizing.

Q: What are common side effects of an immunization?
A: Every immunization is a little different, but common side effects are a low fever or soreness where the shot was given.

Q: Is it better to get the disease “naturally” rather than to get the vaccine?
A: No, natural infection from some diseases can make people very sick or kill them before their body is able to fight it off.

The risks associated with vaccines are much less than the risks associated with disease.

For additional trusted information about vaccinations and immunizations, check out HealthLink BC, or download their app, BC Health Service Locator.

Want to make it easier to remember when you or someone in your family is due for their next immunization? Go to ImmunizeBC to set up text reminders that will be sent right to your phone to remind you of upcoming immunizations. It is free, and can be used for any age and immunization. This website also has a lot of good information on immunizations, and has a chat room that allows people to talk to a nurse. Also, you can download a free app (ImmunizeCA) to help you keep track of your family’s vaccinations. For more information or to receive immunizations, please contact your local health unit.

What are some of the ways that you keep track of your immunizations?

Kim Garrison

About Kim Garrison

Kim is the Public Health Communications Liaison Nurse and works out of Mackenzie. She has a background in public health, and is a graduate of UNBC. She was born and raised in Prince George, and recently moved to Mackenzie with her young family. Her favorite thing about Mackenzie so far is Morfee Lake, which is about five minutes away from her house! She keeps busy chasing after her little ones, and enjoys getting outside when it’s not too cold out!

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