If you are a student, health care worker, instructor, lifeguard, or pretty much any other employee in Canada, you are probably familiar with the annual duty of finding your vaccination records. You might not know what MMR stands for, but you know it’s a vaccine … sort of … and that you need to be innoculated so you can finally start school or work.  

Your immunisation record is that one ‘passport’ without which schools will not let you attend classes, hospitals won’t let you volunteer, and workplaces will not feel safe having you around. If anything, aside from being stuck at home, you have probably gathered by now that updated immunisation records are important, but why? 

I happen to know the answer to this a bit too well. What started out as my passion for volunteering at the hospital quickly turned into endless appointments with my family doctor, frantically translating Urdu vaccine terms to English ones, billions of jabs in my arm (ok maybe 2), and a TB scare. Yes, a TB scare, in Canada … in 2022.

How to keep track of your vaccination records.

  1. In cases where you are unsure about your immunisation status, contact your family doctor.
  2. Contact your provincial school board as they most likely have a copy of your immunisation records.
  3. If you have recently immigrated, make sure you have an archive of your immunisation record from home
  4. Keep track of your immunisation records and those of your children – if applicable, using our My Health Matters Health Planner.

Consequences of Delaying Updating Vaccination Records

The reason for this horror stemmed from an issue I had been ignoring for far too long; updating my vaccination records. As I made calls to my school board and previous family doctors, no one seemed to have my records. When I showed up at my new family doctor’s clinic with my tiny Urdu vaccination card, it was no surprise that my doctor had a difficult time understanding what vaccines I had already received. To be fair, neither did I.

While this sounds like a rather chaotically hilarious story now, it made me realise a few things:

  1. Getting the chickenpox vaccine at 18 hurts
    And it continues to hurt for days on end. Save your kids the torture and make sure they are vaccinated against these crucial viruses
  2. Healthcare systems differ greatly on a global and population level.
    Canada is one of the most rapidly diversifying countries in the world right now, but our healthcare system fails to adapt to its diversifying population’s needs.
  3. Canadian healthcare systems must prioritise immunisation appointments with their patients, especially new patients, to achieve a balance of immunisation across the provinces.
  4. Like healthcare systems, vaccine preferences, and lack thereof, vary greatly.
    An overlooked fact is that in many developing countries, public health and the importance of immunisations are not discussed. This is often due to a mistrust of the government, poor healthcare systems, social, and cultural norms.
  5. This results in many Canadian immigrants arriving with incomplete immunisation records. This does not become important until the first job or day at school.  All Canadians should have up-to-date immunisation records on hand. This will save both people and doctors time and money.
  6. As long as people continue to travel, so will diseases!
    A problem that affects one country will inevitably affect other countries, even if they are miles away. This can cause a localised health issue to become global, so taking precautions early on is important.

    Every year, the influenza virus mutates and travels from Australia to Asia to Europe, and finally reaches North America as a completely different strain. Only the latest vaccine can fight that specific strain of influenza. To depend on a 2-year-old influenza vaccine would be ineffective as the virus has mutated enough to successfully evade the exact vaccine you were inoculated with 2 years ago.

That’s where your vaccination records come in. They ensure that the vaccines you have received in the past years are up to date. Your records also help other medical professionals care for you if need be.

Challenges with COVID Vaccinations Given Outside of Canada

The idea of viruses mutating within a given population seems quite straightforward, almost easy to tackle. However, as mentioned earlier, vaccine preferences vary greatly. My TB scare is a testament to that. Had my family doctor known that the vaccine I received was slightly different due to my geographical location, I wouldn’t have had to wake up at 7 am in the morning for a chest x-ray. No harsh feelings.

Perhaps a more recent example is the Covid-19 vaccine. Many of us have only heard about Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson&Johnson. We even have preferences for the ones we want, but the lesser known ones include Livzon Mabpharm Inc, ​​Anhui Zhifei Longcom, and CanSino.

Can you guess why?

The Canadian government has not yet authorised them as effective. During the early days of Covid-19, this was an issue for travellers from China. Vaccines used in China were not used in Canada and when the government recognized it as a major issue, travellers were asked to get an extra booster shot for their given vaccine.

As I recount my bittersweet encounter with my family doctor and flood your minds with a list of confusing Covid-19 vaccine names, all I ask is for you to recognize the health inequities which exist around the world, and how these inequities are not just a matter for those affected to solve. It’s an issue we must solve together. As long as we continue to travel, so will diseases.

This fact couldn’t be more true than now. It’s almost surprising how unpredictable viruses can be; Polio, an unheard of virus in North America, recently made a return to New York. Sometimes, it can take one host individual and one unvaccinated individual to cause the mass mutation and spread of such viruses. How then is it possible to tackle this difference in immunisation states of people?

Keeping Track of Your Vaccination Records

You keep track. 

This is much easier said than done, but taking some time out of your day to make sure you are immunised according to the Canadian government’s demands can help you save time and prevent serious illness. Here are some tips that may come in handy:

  1. In cases where you are unsure about your immunisation status, contact your family doctor. If you have recently changed family doctors ask for a copy of your records. It’s your right.
  2. If you are currently a student in Ontario, contact your school board. They likely have a copy of your vaccination records.
  3. If you have recently immigrated, make sure you have an archive of your immunisation record from home. Identify the vaccines you are unsure about getting or ones you may need.
  4. Keep track of your immunisation records and those of your children. Use our handy My Health Matters Health Planner, an indispensable tool that provides an exhaustive overview of your health. This document provides critical information that any medical professional will benefit from should you require treatment.

These are just a few of the ways you can help slow the spread of contagious diseases. Keeping immunisation records up to date is about more than just remaining healthy. It plays a major role in ensuring everyone remains healthy, it promotes global population health, and most importantly, it keeps you away from getting a TB scare.

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