Public Health Matters: Spring a Great Time to Update Your Vaccinations

April 12, 2016

Spring – a great time to update your vaccinations
By Dr. Jan Owen, Acting Medical Officer of Health, Huron County

Spring is here and you may be thinking about your garden, not immunizations. But when you’re ready to get your hands dirty outdoors, there’s no better time to think about updating your vaccinations.

Tetanus, commonly known as lockjaw, is a serious, sometimes fatal disease of the nervous system caused by a toxin released by bacteria. The bacteria and spores that lead to tetanus can be found in soil and anywhere in our environment. Last year an unvaccinated child in Grey-Bruce was hospitalized after contracting tetanus.

You may have had a “tetanus shot” before, but it is important to get a booster every 10 years to maintain lifelong immunity. Fortunately, adults can receive a free dose of vaccine that includes protection against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough).

You may remember the high number of pertussis cases in Huron County last summer. Pertussis is a serious infection of the breathing system caused by a bacteria. It is very contagious and can occur in people of all ages. The disease is also the most contagious during the first two weeks, when symptoms are much the same as a common cold.

The disease is most serious in young children, especially those under one year of age. In this age group pertussis may lead to pneumonia, seizures, brain damage and occasionally death. That’s why I strongly encourage all adults, especially if you are going to be in close contact with newborns or babies, to make sure your vaccinations are updated. Immunizations protect you and the vulnerable ones around you!

Vaccinations also protect you from diseases that may be very serious when you also have an underlying medical condition. If you have an underlying medical condition, or are over the age of 65, you may benefit from receiving the pneumococcal vaccine as well.

Lastly, let’s talk about shingles. Shingles is a painful disease, appearing as an often debilitating and blistering rash. It occurs when the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that caused your childhood chickenpox, is reactivated for some reason within your body.

You may be seeing a lot of commercials on TV about the shingles vaccine. Right now shingles is not publicly funded, although the province recently announced that the shingles vaccine will become free for eligible Ontario seniors between the ages of 65 and 70. There are no firm timelines yet for when that will happen. But if you are over 50, and if you have the means to cover the cost of the vaccine, you should consider getting it. 

So while you enjoy the spring, think about a spring visit to your healthcare provider to ask about updating your vaccinations. Your health, your loved ones and your garden will thank you for it!

“Public Health Matters” is a regular column by Dr. Janice Owen, Acting Medical Officer of Health for Huron County. Media outlets are welcome to run these monthly columns.
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Rita Marshall, Communications Co-ordinator, Huron County Health Unit, 519.482.3416 (toll-free 1.877.837.6143) ext. 2023 or


For more information contact:

Rita Marshall, Communications Co-ordinator, Huron County Health Unit
519.482.3416 (ext 2023)