Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday December 22, 2016
Conscientious objection to vaccines has doubled in 20 years
The number of parents opting out of measles vaccines for their kids because of conscientious or religious beliefs has doubled in 20 years, leaving Ontario’s public health system struggling to stop a trend of “increasing concern.”
“It’s a massive challenge because the numbers are going up,” said Paul Bramadat, an editor and writer of a book coming out in 2017 on vaccine hesitancy in Canada. “There has always been this kind of faith that if I just give you the right study or if I just give you the right pamphlet, you’ll see the jury is in and the case is closed and vaccines are actually safe and effective and the best way for us to prevent really terrible pandemics … It turns out all those anxieties can be addressed by science, but even when they are addressed that is not sufficient.”
Facts and evidence are battling a formidable foe, a “hip and cool” campaign that uses social media to spread its message, taps into a desire to live more naturally and takes advantage of a growing distrust of science and public institutions.
“The anti-vaccine movement is very sophisticated,” said Ellen Amster, chair in the history of medicine at McMaster University who studies vaccine hesitancy. “It’s definitely a movement. There are people who are co-ordinated, who raise money, who buy billboards and publish children’s books. They are very smart. They have celebrities. They have all these strategies to make it approachable, understandable and to make you feel you’re being empowered with this information.”
Public health has had to turn its messaging on its head to combat hesitancy.
“Immunization is now a topic we all discuss,” said Dr. Julie Emili, a Hamilton associate medical officer of health. “I’d say 10 years ago we didn’t do many interviews about immunizations. It was assumed people just get their shots. There wasn’t this whole discussion about, ‘Should I get my shots or shouldn’t I?’” (Continued: Hamilton Spectator)