Ontario must take steps to hit vaccination targets and debunk measles myths
We’re losing the fight against measles. In this day and age, that’s an amazing statement. Three years ago we talked about them being almost eradicated. Now we’re losing the battle.
This week Ottawa reported measles cases. There have been outbreaks in British Columbia, in several U.S. states and in Europe. In New York City, a health emergency has been declared.
And the worst part is that we know exactly why. A relatively small group of so-called anti-vaxxers is making effective use of — what else — social media to spread misinformation, which is leading to more and more parents not getting their kids vaccinated, and to more adults choosing not to be revaccinated.
A recent report from the Toronto Star shows that nearly 30 per cent of seven-year-old students in the Greater Toronto Area aren’t getting their shots. A vaccination rate of 90 to 95 per cent is needed to afford herd immunity, which is required to prevent outbreaks. Ontario is very far from that target.
Actions are being taken. The Ontario Medical Association has launched a public awareness campaign, using traditional and non-traditional media, specifically taking at aim of some of the most common myths about vaccines.
Myths that suggest measles and similar diseases aren’t really that dangerous. The fact is that complications happen in about 10 per cent of cases. For every 1,000 cases, one or two victims will die. Then there’s the widely-debunked claim that the measles vaccine causes autism. It doesn’t. There is no scientific evidence to support that claim. Large studies around the world have shown there is no link, and yet the life-threatening myth survives.
Or this: The idea that nosodes are a substitute for vaccination. Nosodes, also called homeopathic vaccines, are not a substitute for real vaccines. There is no scientific evidence to show they prevent infectious diseases. Nosodes are made from bacteria, viruses, tissue or other material from someone with a particular disease. They are so diluted there are no active ingredients left by the time they are administered.
Or this one: Breastfeeding protects babies from infection. While it offers some protection against certain types of infections, the protection is incomplete. Breastfeeding is not a substitute for vaccination.
And finally, this: We shouldn’t put foreign substances like vaccines into our bodies. It’s hard to believe anyone would fall for this, but they do. The germs that cause communicable diseases like measles are natural, but that doesn’t make them good. Plants and berries are natural things, but they yield some of the most poisonous substances. Vaccines, on the other hand, are made from natural sources, some from safely-altered germs. They stimulate our immune system in the same way the disease would, but without making us sick.
At this point, all the good work being done to educate the public isn’t stopping the new spread of measles. It may be time for tougher medicine.
There are two legal exemptions for not vaccinating kids. One is a medical exemption, which obviously must remain available. Another is non-medical exemptions, where parents must sign an affidavit saying vaccines conflict with their “sincerely held convictions.”
U.S. states like California, Mississippi and West Virginia have ended non-medical exemptions. And their vaccination rates have dramatically increased. Perhaps it’s time Ontario and other Canadian provinces did the same thing. (Source: Hamilton Spectator Editorial)
Measles, disease, virus, vaccination, herd, immunization, vaccine, military