Are vaccines safe?
Vaccines are among the safest tools of modern medicine. Like all medicines in Canada, they must pass strict tests before we can use them here. Governments at all levels (federal, provincial and territorial) believe that keeping vaccines safe is very important.
On average, it takes about 10 years of research and development before a vaccine is considered for approval by Health Canada.
Following approval, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends how the vaccine should be used. Provinces/territories decide which vaccines will be included in their routine, publically funded vaccine program.
The dangers of vaccine-preventable diseases are many times greater than the risks of a serious adverse reaction to the vaccine. Diseases such as polio, diphtheria, measles, and whooping cough can lead to paralysis, pneumonia, choking, brain damage, heart problems, and even death in children who are not protected.
Compare the risks of the diseases to the risks of the vaccines.
Severe allergic reactions can occur, but they very rarely do. In Canada, this kind of reaction has occurred less than once in every 1 million doses of vaccine.
Minor side effects from vaccines, on the other hand, are common. These reactions are a nuisance but do not usually last long. They can be part of the body’s normal response to the vaccine.
• Feeling sore or tender where the needle went into your arm or leg. This is very common, affecting one out of four people.
• Having a mild fever, feeling a bit ill or having sore muscles. This is less common, affecting one out of ten people.
Consult your health care provider for ways to reduce soreness, tenderness and fever after immunization.
Despite ongoing research towards safer and more effective vaccines, adverse reactions do still occur. With any medicine, there is always a slim chance that someone might have a severe reaction. For this reason, a nurse or doctor will watch you for 15 – 30 minutes (depending on the vaccine) after you have a vaccine. Your doctor or nurse will report all serious side effects. This is part of making sure that vaccines stay safe.
Individuals may react differently to vaccines. When considering immunization, both the risks and the benefits should be discussed with a qualified health care provider.