I got a pamphlet from Northern Health this week promoting their upcoming Kindergarten Health Fair. It’s a free event for children going into Kindergarten in the fall with free hearing and vision screenings, information on speech and nutrition. The fair also features school entry immunizations. Currently in BC, it is not mandatory to be immunized in order to go to school but it is in three other Canadian provinces. Northern Health recommends all children in Kindergarten receive vaccinations for tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, polio, measles, mumps, rubella and chicken pox. My children are both up to date on their vaccinations. It isn’t easy to hold them down and watch someone insert a needle or two into them but it is so important. Not only do I want to do everything in my power to protect them but also want to protect those around them. I don’t know if one of my daughter’s classmates won’t be able to get vaccines because of a weakened immune system or an allergy. I would hate for her to pass on a terrible sickness to someone who can’t protect themselves. Or if one of my children gave whooping couch to a newborn. Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection and can be deadly.
Another infectious disease covered by childhood vaccines is measles. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention measles is a very contagious disease caused by a virus. It spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. In fact, the measles virus can stay in the air for up to 2 hours after an infected person was there. So you can get infected by simply being in a room where an infected person once was. It is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90 per cent of the people around him or her will also become infected if they are not protected.
One out of every 1,000 measles cases progresses to acute encephalitis, which often results in permanent brain damage. One or two out of every 1,000 children who become infected with measles will die from respiratory and neurological complications.
The interesting part is that in 1998, measles was declared eliminated from Canada and in 2000 in the United States. It has since made a return due to travellers bringing it in and a movement of people who are against vaccinations, usually called anti-vaxxers. The World Health Organization recently declared that “vaccine hesitancy,” was one of the top 10 threats to global health. Other top ten threats to global health included pollution, ebola and HIV, to put it into perspective. The website says, “The reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines – threatens to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective ways of avoiding disease – it currently prevents 2-3 million deaths a year, and a further 1.5 million could be avoided if global coverage of vaccinations improved.”
The anti-vaccination movement dates back as far as vaccinations but discredited ex-physican Andrew Wakefield started a recent movement in 1998 when he published a paper claiming a link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to autism. The movement went Hollywood when actress Jenny McCarthy said her son was diagnosed with autism after receiving a vaccination. None of these ideas have been supported by medical evidence. Even if they were, I’d rather my child have autism than die of a preventable disease.
I’ll be honest, I’m not looking forward to taking my strong-willed and also very physically strong daughter to get her shots before Kindergarten but I believe it is the best for her and for our community. Also, I’m going to try and bribe my husband to take her.