Public Health Ontario report highlights vaccine safety
Ontario distributed some 8.4 million doses of vaccines through its public vaccination programs in 2014, with very few adverse reactions, reports Public Health Ontario (PHO) in its 2014 Annual Report on Vaccine Safety in Ontario.
“Vaccines are a safe and effective way to promote health and prevent disease. They protect us from serious diseases and save lives,” notes Dr. Shelley Deeks, medical director of immunization and vaccine-preventable diseases at PHO.
“The risk of an adverse reaction to a vaccine is very small and serious reactions are very rare. By encouraging public health units and health care providers to report adverse reactions, we are able to continuously monitor vaccine safety in Ontario. Monitoring vaccine safety helps us know that the risks are very low compared to the risks from the dangerous diseases they prevent.”
Of the 8.4 million doses distributed across the province, 568 adverse reactions were reported. And of that number, 23 (or three out of every million doses distributed) were considered serious, such as seizures or severe allergic reactions requiring hospitalization. The majority of reported reactions were mild – pain, redness or swelling around the injection site, rashes and fevers.
There is considerable evidence showing that vaccines are not only safe but effective. To illustrate, Ontario children receive their first meningococcal vaccine at age one and another in grade 7. A recent study on invasive meningococcal disease showed the province’s vaccination program to be highly effective in protecting children against two common strains of this serious bacterial infection. Meningococcal bacteria can invade the body and cause illness like meningitis or septicemia. After the vaccination program was introduced, the incidence of illness significantly decreased.
“The very low rate of serious events following immunization is reassuring and speaks to the safety of vaccines,” said Dr. Carolyn Pim, deputy medical officer of health, Ottawa Public Health, and chair of the Provincial Infectious Diseases Advisory Committee. “Robust surveillance of all adverse events following immunization is key as it helps us to evaluate and improve immunization programs. Rigorous and continual monitoring of adverse events is essential to maintaining public confidence and allows us to clearly demonstrate that the low risk of adverse events due to vaccination far outweighs the risks associated with debilitating and sometimes deadly vaccine-preventable diseases.”
• Most people who receive vaccines experience no side effects; in a small number of cases, vaccines can cause minor reactions such as a pain or redness at the injection site.
• An adverse reaction or event is an unwanted or unexpected health effect that happens after someone is vaccinated. It may or may not be caused by the vaccine.
• All vaccines are extensively tested before use and monitored continuously for safety and effectiveness. In Canada, vaccines are closely monitored by governments and manufacturers.
• In Ontario, local public health units investigate reported adverse reactions and provide support to health professionals who administer vaccines to individuals and their families.
Public Health Ontario is a Crown corporation dedicated to protecting and promoting the health of all Ontarians and reducing inequities in health. Public Health Ontario links public health practitioners, front-line health workers and researchers to the best scientific intelligence and knowledge from around the world. For the latest PHO news, follow us on Twitter: @publichealthON.
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