TRURO - Parents now have a new tool at their fingertips when it comes to learning about vaccines and immunizations thanks to a free app for smartphones.
Dr. Ryan Sommers, a local family physician and medical officer of health for Colchester East Hants Health Authority, has been familiarizing himself with ImmunizeCA, a free app for Android and iOS phones.
"It's a great little tool," said Sommers. "For me, the neatest thing is how it connects the user to existing provincial resources. It's not just a generic app - it's tailored to your own province."
The app was launched just a few weeks ago and Sommers is promoting it as part of National Immunization Awareness Week, which runs until May 3.
"In Canada, there is no national immunization schedule, but each province have their own and this app does a nice job of customizing it to each provincial schedule," he said.
The idea behind the app came about after Ontario created a similar version. That's when Immunize Canada collaborated with various organizations, including the Canadian Public Health Association, to create the app.
"The app is geared toward the public with information on vaccines, benefits of immunization and including expert-developed, evidence-based information that is kept up-to-date."
Sommers said public health issues yellow cards to new parents with information on immunizations, and said that will continue.
"That's still being offered and this isn't meant to be the official record of those, but it's an additional way parents can keep track of immunizations and learn more about immunizations," he said.
People travelling can also find information pertaining to their travels.
"With the app, you can put reminders in and can look for local outbreaks. It will comb the web for outbreaks, for example there are now five provinces with measles outbreaks."
The medical officer of health said today's digital world is both a "blessing and a challenge," with information being so accessible.
"People can go online and search for information, but one of the biggest problems is how good is that information out there?"
He said by doing a search on immunization, about three-quarters of the websites that pop up lead to anti-vaccination websites. He's hoping more parents will download and use the app.
"You can use your own security system on the app and people with Cloud systems are able to save their data that way as well," he said, adding users' information is not tracked.
While he hasn't seen patients with a new baby since the app has been released, he will be mentioning it when he has the opportunity to.
For more information or to download the app, visit www.immunize.ca.
- Immunization is the most effective way to protect against vaccine preventable diseases.
- Vaccines are safe and effective; serious disease can occur if a person, their child and family are not immunized.
- Immunization is one of the most important ways to promote health.
- Over the past 50 years, immunization has saved more lives in Canada than any other health intervention.
- Immunization protects both individuals who receive the vaccine and those with whom they come in contact, especially people who cannot be or are incompletely vaccinated due to medical conditions or age
- The World Health Organization estimates that every year, more than two million deaths are prevented worldwide due to immunization.
- Immunization provides cost-savings to the individual and to the society.
Source: Public Health Agency of Canada