This episode features Dr. Shalea Piteau, Chief and Medical Director of Pediatrics at Quinte Health Care, in Bellville Ontario. Dr. Piteau discusses the benefits of pediatric vaccination and answers common parent questions on how vaccinations work.
For more information on vaccinations please visit askontariodoctors.ca
OMA Podcast Episode 1 - Vaccinations with Dr. Shalea Piteau
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Voice-over: In this podcast the Ontario Medical Association looks at current health issues that are on everyone’s mind. Spotlight on Health gives you the straight talk. We’re Ontario’s doctors and your health matters to us.
This episode explores vaccinations.
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Dr. Shalea Piteau: My name is Dr. Shalea Piteau. I'm the Chief and Medical Director of Pediatrics at Quinte Health Care, and I'm very happy to be here today.
Interviewer: How do vaccines work?
Dr. Piteau: Our body has an immune system, and either natural infections or immunizations can achieve immunity against different infections. What the vaccines do, is that they build up an immunity in our bodies that protects us against infection without us having to get the infections.
The issue is, some infections can cause very severe complications, such as meningitis or death. Additionally, the immunity may not build up fast enough to prevent any of those severe complications. So, it's much safer for people to achieve immunity through vaccination and immunization.
Interviewer: How do vaccines protect us?
Dr. Piteau: Thanks to vaccines, deaths from many serious childhood diseases have virtually been eliminated, and the number of cases of infection have been dramatically reduced.
For example, almost 95 percent of children used to get measles by age 18, and there were many, many complications associated with that, including death and brain damage. There are much fewer cases now, although there are outbreaks going on, but there are a significant reduction in infections and complications. Other illnesses, smallpox has been completely eradicated, polio has been eradicated from Canada—it's still present in certain parts of the world, but we're not seeing polio infections in Canada anymore because of success with vaccines.
Interviewer: Are vaccines safe?
Dr. Piteau: Vaccines are generally very safe. They have to be approved by Health Canada and they go into a very rigorous process, monitoring for safety and quality, before they are given to the public.
So, they're considered very safe, and they are also monitored really closely. Doctors and nurses are expected to report any adverse events to Public Health Agency of Canada. And so, any adverse events are monitored and vaccines can be pulled if there are any concerns.
There can be some minor side effects, redness, or swelling, or a bit of pain at the site of the local injection. The live viral vaccine, it can cause just a very, very mild form of the illness.
But overall, apart from that, vaccines are generally very safe. There are very rare complications that can happen. Vaccines are monitored really closely, looking for any possible concerns.
Interviewer: Is it safe for infants to be vaccinated?
Dr. Piteau: Parents have a lot of questions and concerns about their young infants, which is appropriate. But there's been no evidence that side effects from vaccines are more common in infants or babies than in older children.
And delaying vaccination leads young, very young children at risk of complications and death from common diseases such as pertussis, Haemophilus influenzae and pneumococcal infections, which tend to be more severe for babies.
One myth is that [unintelligible] too many vaccines to overload a baby's immune system. In fact, babies are naturally exposed to thousands of antigens every day. Bacteria viruses expose infants to large numbers of antigens at once, far more than that, those that are found in vaccines. So, vaccines are considered very safe in that way. And giving combined vaccines and multiple shots means fewer needles for a child.
Interviewer: Why do my children and I need to be vaccinated?
Dr. Piteau: Certainly, infants particularly under six months of age would be a vulnerable population, as they tend to get sickest with some infections. Children that are generally healthy are not at risk, but children that have chronic illnesses tend to be more at risk for severe infections and complications. Schools want all the children to get immunized so that they can prevent infections and number of infections or outbreak in children that are vulnerable or unimmunized.
Adults should be vaccinated. There are multiple reasons for that. If adults are working with young children in day care settings, or if they’re health care providers, they can protect the population they work with by vaccinating themselves. Pregnant women that are breastfeeding, it can provide some immunity to their young infants through immunizations.
There's just benefit in everyone getting immunized to prevent the spread and prevent outbreak. But just being aware that not vaccinating puts others at risk of disease, which potentially comprises their rights.
So, the biggest benefit with vaccinations is, when everybody gets the vaccine, that there aren't still cases of infection around. As long as people are still not vaccinating, the disease can still spread.
Interviewer: What would you tell a parent who is concerned about vaccinating their child?
Dr. Piteau: What I would say about vaccinations is that they are considered very safe and go through rigorous testing and monitoring to ensure that what we're giving to our children is safe. If I were to decide this for my own child, I would absolutely want my child to receive a vaccine, and maybe have a minor side effect of a bit of pain with the injection shot, than to see my child go through a serious infection which could potentially have severe complications and even death with some of these illnesses.
So, it's certainly a much safer way to maintain health in children. Yes, I just strongly recommend discussing vaccines with your local care provider, going over your, any concerns one would have, ask questions about many of the different myths that are out there and are not true.
When fully informed, I think most people would realize that vaccines are safe and they are a good choice for children.
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Voice-over: Don't miss our next episode as we discuss more about vaccinations.
This podcast is brought to you by the Ontario Medical Association. It is produced and edited by Jodi Crawford Productions. This podcast is not intended to provide medical advice for specific situations and is for general educational purposes only. Please consult your doctor if you have symptoms or questions about your health.
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