I have a good friend who is currently debating whether or not she should have her child immunized. It’s hard for me to rationally debate this with her because I have such a bias for immunization, but I do respect her need to weigh the options before making a decision. While talking to her about vaccines in Canada I found it a good exercise to compile a couple of quick points regarding safety and monitoring for her information as well as mine. I’ve coupled these with a few patient education websites for further clarification and included these below. I hope if you have similar questions, or know of someone who does, that you find this helpful.
1. How are vaccines approved for use in Canada?
– The biologics and Genetic Therapies Directorate (BGTD), i.e. Health Canada, regulates vaccines for human use in Canada
– To be approved, vaccines must meet acceptable standards of production, safety and potency
– BGTD is also involved in post-marketing surveillance of vaccine safety.
2. Who recommends what vaccines for use?
A. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization
– which is a multidisciplinary expert group which makes recommendations to the federal minister of health
– All recommendations are published every 4 years in the Canadian Immunization Guide (latest edition was this year – 2006)
B. Provinces and Territories
– Use the NACI recommendations to develop immunization programs
C. Canadian Pediatric Society
– Also has some say in the process, but what exactly I’m not sure
3. Who monitors vaccine safety?
A. IMPACT – Immunization Monitoring program, ACTive
B. CPSP – Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program
C. ACCA – Advisory Committee on Causality Assessment – Reviews all reported cases of serious adverse events
D. Global advisory committee on vaccine safety – run by the World Health Organization
Here are some good websites which advocate immunizations but which do so in an informative manner.
Parents of kids with infectious diseases (http://www.pkids.org/about_pkids.php) is a non-profit organization which is comprised mostly of parents with children infected with Hep B, C and HIV. Though they seem to be pro-immunization they appear to be interested in public education more than pushing vaccines.
Caring for kids (http://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/) is a governmental page (I think) that has a bit of a bias toward promoting immunization.
Institute for vaccine safety (http://www.vaccinesafety.edu/) is an independent watchdog group which “provide[s] an independent assessment of vaccines and vaccine safety to help guide decision makers and educate physicians, the public and the media about key issues surrounding the safety of vaccines .”