Canada kicks off National Immunization Awareness Week

Marking National Immunization Awareness Week, Canada's health ministers today encouraged parents and care givers across the country to have their children immunized.

"Immunization programs have had a major impact on public health," said Carolyn Bennett, federal Minister of State for Public Health. "Since the introduction of mass immunization efforts, infectious diseases that were common and life-threatening, such as polio, have been eliminated, and many other diseases, such as measles, are now rare.

"Not all Canadian children have access to the new and recommended vaccines that they need. In response, the Government of Canada has committed $300 million to ensure this access," she added. "The benefits to society in terms of overall wellness and savings to the health care system are significant. As a family physician and Minister of State for Public Health, I encourage parents and care givers to have their children immunized."

"Canadian children need to have access to vaccines whatever their means and wherever they live," said Pierre Pettigrew, federal Minister of Health. "Through this additional funding, provinces and territories will have increased capacity to make recommended vaccines available to children."

"All provinces and territories support a collaborative immunization effort to improve the health of our children," said Federal/Provincial/Territorial co-chair Colin Hansen, B.C. Minister of Health Services. "Immunization is among the most effective and cost-effective medical interventions. This funding represents a major milestone for Canadian public health and enhances our ability to deliver a collaboratively developed, consistent immunization program across the country."

Budget 2004 proposes immediate additional funding of $665 million this fiscal year and over the next two years to improve Canada's readiness to deal with public health emergencies. This includes $165 million to assist in the creation of the new Canada Public Health Agency and $300 million to the provinces and territories over the next three years to work toward a national immunization strategy.

The new federal funding will support the introduction of new and recommended vaccines as proposed by the National Immunization Advisory Committee. Currently there are four new recommended childhood and adolescent vaccines to prevent diseases such as chicken pox, meningitis, pneumonia and whooping cough. The budget also included an additional $100 million to relieve stresses on provincial and territorial public health systems that were identified during the SARS outbreak. The provinces and territories will report publicly on their use of these investments.

This new funding will build on the $45 million provided in the 2003 budget to improve the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, enhance coordination and efficiency of immunization procurement, and ensure better information on immunization coverage rates within Canada.

The Government of Canada expects to make further investments in public health once the new Canada Public Health Agency is set up, the Chief Public Health Officer has developed a comprehensive public health plan, and the Government has had the opportunity to evaluate the need for additional resources.

Through the Canadian Coalition for Immunization Awareness and Promotion, a coalition of national organizations committed to promotion and education on immunization, Health Canada is supporting a number of activities to mark National Immunization Awareness Week from April 25 to May 1, 2004. Posters and pamphlets to promote the week are available through the Canadian Coalition for Immunization Awareness and Promotion web site at http://www.immunize.cpha.ca/english/niaw.htm and through the Health Canada web site.

This year, Canada has aligned its activities with the Pan American Health Organization's Vaccination Week in the Americas in support of the pan-American effort to encourage parents, caregivers and health care providers to ensure children are immunized. International efforts are focussed on making sure children, young women and some seniors, mostly in remote areas, are immunized.

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