Vaccinations in Canada - Statistics & Facts

Vaccination involves a virus or bacteria being purposely introduced to an individual, usually through injection, in order for the person’s immune system to develop resistance to a specific disease. Vaccination is one of the most effective means of preventing infectious diseases and is responsible for the reduction of a number of diseases including measles and polio, and the complete eradication of small pox.

In Canada, vaccinations have been responsible for an 87 percent decrease in whooping cough and a 99 percent decrease in measles, mumps, rubella and diphtheria. From the period 2011 to 2015, around 89 percent of children in Canada had received one dose of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccination by their second birthday and rates of meningococcal C and pneumococcal vaccinations both increased over this period. Rates of influenza immunization among Canadians have fluctuated over the years, with 32.6 percent of Canadians receiving this vaccination in 2017.

In most cases, vaccines have no side effects; however, like any medication, certain unwanted effects may occur. Like many other countries, Canada has a system to report such adverse events to monitor the safety of vaccinations. In the last quarter of 2016, there were 902 reports of adverse effects from vaccinations reported in Canada, 799 of which were non-serious cases and 103 serious cases. The most common type of adverse effect for non-serious cases was a reaction at or near the vaccination site, while the most common adverse effect in serious cases was a neurologic event. The vaccine most responsible for non-serious events was the influenza vaccination, while the pneumococcal vaccination caused the highest share of serious event cases.

Side effects from vaccinations are extremely rare and most often non-serious. Nevertheless, in recent years there has been an increase in many countries, including the United States and Canada, in the number of people who express fear or skepticism concerning vaccinations. In 2018, a survey of health care professionals in Canada revealed that 26 percent of family physicians stated they had seen an increase in vaccine refusal over the last five years. Family physicians reported the most common reasons patients gave for refusing a vaccine were that they knew, or heard of, someone who had an adverse reaction to a vaccine, or they were worried about specific ingredients in the vaccines. However, around 93 percent of Canadians in 2019 stated they believed vaccinations were very effective or mostly effective for the individual receiving them, and 91 percent believed they were very effective or mostly effective for the community as a whole.

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