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Baby Matters

All About Immunity

January 1st, 2015

Submitted by Alberta Health Services

When it comes to your child, safety and health are your most important concerns. Alberta Health Services (AHS) shares these concerns, including when it comes to immunizing your wee ones. 

AHS’ Senior Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Gerry Predy, also knows that the topic of immunization can seem downright overwhelming.

Dr. Predy offers these basics, to help us all better understand immunity – including the risks and safety - in perspective. 


"The easiest way to understand immunity is by thinking of immunity as your child's armour against disease," says AHS Senior Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Gerry Predy.

To explain:

• Immunization prompts your child’s natural immune response to disease, allowing your child to safely develop antibodies against the disease, before being exposed to the disease.

• These antibodies act as your child’s armour.

• When your child is exposed to that disease after being immunized, your child will be armed and able to fight it off, without getting sick.

• Without immunization, your child’s body does not have the immunity (or "armour") to fight off the disease. Without the armour of immunization, your child can fall victim to vaccine-preventable diseases.


It’s normal – and healthy – for you to be concerned that what you’re putting into your child’s body is safe.

The good news: your child’s safety is at the heart of Alberta’s immunization program.

The vaccines your child receives in Alberta are safe. These vaccines protect your child from diseases that are not safe.

"Unfortunately, misinformation has created some confusion around these facts," says Predy. "This confusion has caused some parents to question whether immunization really is the best thing for their child. Simply, I can assure you, it is."

Know this:

• In Canada, severe allergic reactions to vaccines are rare, happening only once for every one million doses of vaccines given, each year.

• The most common symptoms children experience after immunization are temporary redness, swelling or pain where the needle has been given. These symptoms usually go away one to three days after immunization.

• The risks that diseases pose to your child are far greater and more likely than the risks associated with immunization.


For many of the diseases that routine childhood immunization can prevent, no treatment exists.

When it comes to the few diseases for which treatments have been developed, despite the fact that these treatments exist, the rates of death for these diseases still remain very high, even with treatment. 

Without immunization, children are totally at risk of getting sick with diseases that, for the most part, have no cures.

By comparison, immunizations are up to 99.9 per cent effective at preventing these same diseases.

"From the perspective of protecting your child against diseases that pose a significant risk of illness and death, immunization – your child’s armour – is the safer and simpler alternative," concludes Predy. "It’s the most effective way of arming your child against illness, and, it’s also the safest way to protect your child’s health."

For more information on immunization, visit


Heard about The Herd?

When you immunize your child, you’re also helping to build your community’s defence against diseases. The more people immunized in a community, the less opportunity disease has to spread in the community.

The catch? For immunization to effectively arm your whole community against vaccine-preventable diseases, the majority of people in your community must be immunized.

This is often called "Herd Immunity."

To truly achieve Herd Immunity against infectious diseases, between 85 per cent and 95 per cent of people in the community need to be immunized, depending on the specific disease.

Herd Immunity is important to the health of a community as a whole, and particularly to vulnerable people in a community who cannot be immunized themselves. These vulnerable people – including infants too young to yet be immunized, patients undergoing cancer treatment and transplant recipients – rely on those around them to be immunized to provide some degree of protection from disease.

By getting your child immunized, you’re arming your child against disease and you’re also helping to protect and defend your vulnerable neighbours and your community as a whole.






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