The United States has a harmonized vaccination schedule that is used across the country. While parents can request an alternative schedule, the recommendations and standard procedures are the same nationwide. In Canada, however, the schedule is currently different in each of the provinces and territories.
The Canadian Pediatric Society (CPS) has been requesting a harmonized immunization schedule for quite some time and has issued a renewed call to action. According to CPS, the need for harmonization is critical because of the increasing schedule complexity, increased number of recommended vaccines, and increased movement of people from one part of the country to another. CPS is concerned that the divergent schedules will result in some children missing vaccinations due to schedule differences. Although not mentioned by CPS, the risk of children receiving double vaccinations may also be a risk. In addition to the safety factor, CPS also calls the current system inequitable, with children in some provinces having access to vaccinations that children in other provinces do not.
Harmonizing the vaccination schedules in Canada will certainly help to alleviate the concerns that CPS has raised. However, it may not address the concerns of parents and doctors who feel that the current vaccine recommendations are too aggressive. In the United States, Dr. Bob Sears’ The Vaccine Book provides parents with information to “make the right decision for their child.” He provides parents with information on the benefits and risks of the recommended vaccines and also on the risks of the diseases themselves. He then provides parents with two alternative vaccination schedules to consider if they don’t want to use the schedule recommended by the government: a delayed schedule (which spreads vaccines out further, so that children don’t get as many vaccines during such a short period of time) and a selective schedule (which leaves out some of the less critical vaccines). While parents do have the option to opt-out of some of the vaccines or to request that they be delayed, parents face a lot of pressure from doctors to follow the government-prescribed schedule.
If the Government of Canada, the provincial and territorial governments, and the Canadian Pediatric Society were to work on harmonizing the schedules, they may wish to consider offering alternative schedules to parents as well on request. Those alternative schedules could come with vaccination passports that clearly indicate (e.g. with a different colour) which schedule the child is on and indicate the dates for those vaccinations. That type of harmonized hybrid approach would alleviate the problems of the current disjointed system, while also providing more room for families to determine, in consultation with their doctor, which schedule is best for their child.
Annie blogs about the art and science of parenting at the PhD in Parenting blog.
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