At alarmingly high levels in some areas, a sizable number of the Canadian population has decided, for one reason or another, against vaccinations to protect themselves and their children from serious and contagious illnesses like measles and polio.
Some cite religious reasons, while others rant on about disproved myths, one of the biggest being vaccines are responsible for a spike in autism.
Immunize Canada debunks a number of those falsehoods with facts on its website, ‘immunize.ca’.
The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine does not cause autism, nor do multiple injections overwhelm the immune system, as some would believe. Vaccines don’t contain cells from aborted fetuses. Some vaccines do contain preservatives, additives and adjuvants, but they are not harmful.
Last month, news agencies in Canada reported on a significant outbreak of measles in British Columbia that started amongst religious groups but didn’t stop there, according to Fraser Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Paul Van Buynder.
"We respect the beliefs of religious groups, and we understand they're not going to get vaccinated because of their belief system," he said. "What's disappointing is that the broader population has many people who are susceptible and are at risk. We need to get people to understand that measles infection is a great risk and these vaccines are very safe and very important for protection."
Part of the problem is a loss of trust in the figures of authority we once turned to unflinchingly for answers. People no longer take the advice of doctors or politicians at face value like they once did. They’ve been burned too many times.
Another factor is that we are far enough removed from the time before vaccines for many once-common diseases existed that we have forgotten how serious they actually, in fact, were and continue to be.
Outbreaks of measles and many other potentially life-threatening illnesses are preventable in Canada with vaccinations.
This week is National Immunization Awareness Week, and Immunize Canada is calling upon Canadians to protect themselves and others by staying up-to-date with their vaccinations.
Dr. Susan Bowles, the organization’s chair, says, “Immunizations are safe, effective and benefit people of all ages. They protect individuals and communities by preventing the spread of disease. As more people are immunized, the disease risk for everyone is reduced.”
With today’s technology and social media, there are thousands upon thousands of excellent sources of information available at our fingertips, as well as a multitude of lousy purveyors of junk.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to conduct your own research on vaccinations and decide for yourself, but do so thoroughly. As the old expression goes, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.