In Saskatchewan, immunization is not mandatory for any medical threat. Like other health care treatments, informed consent is required.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), vaccination is one of the most important public health interventions. Specifically, in Canada, the Public Health Agency reports that in the last 50 years immunization has saved more lives than any other health intervention.
The terms immunization and vaccination are often used interchangeably to refer to a process where an individual's immune system is strengthened against certain bacteria, viruses or other microorganisms.
The issue of immunization, however, remains controversial. Many individuals are concerned about the long-term effects of vaccines and whether enough testing goes on before vaccines hit the market. Public debate continues about whether there is any evidence to support claims that vaccines can be linked to conditions such as autism and MS.
In Canada, immunization is a shared responsibility among federal, provincial, and territorial governments. The federal government is responsible for authorizing the sale of vaccines in Canada, performing ongoing vaccine safety monitoring, and publishing evidence-based recommendations on the use of vaccines in Canada. The provinces and territories are responsible for immunization program planning and delivery in their respective jurisdictions.
The decision about whether or not to receive available immunization can be a serious concern for individuals and parents of children who must decide for them. Individuals should discuss their concerns with their health care provider and ensure that they fully understand both the risks and benefits of any medical procedure or treatment.
Saskatchewan Health offers a variety of routine immunization programs for infants, pre-school and school children free of charge. These immunization programs target diseases such as diphtheria, whooping cough, polio, measles, mumps, chicken pox, and HPV. There are also targeted programs for populations at high-risk for things like influenza, pneumococcal disease and H1N1.
Some provinces may require certain vaccines to be given to a child before they can enter school and some healthcare facilities may require certain health care workers to be vaccinated against certain threats if they will be performing certain duties. However, even in these instances there are exceptions and exemptions. Immunization may also be mandatory for some international travellers. For example, some countries require immunization for yellow fever as a condition of entry into the country.
In jurisdictions that require school children to be vaccinated against certain diseases there is typically an option to decline the vaccination. Individuals generally do so for medical, religious or philosophical reasons. In the event of an outbreak of a particular disease, children who have not been immunized may be required to stay home from school until it is safe to return. Similarly, healthcare workers who refuse a vaccine may face restricted duties in the event of an outbreak.