Canadians falling behind with vaccines

It is well established that vaccines save lives. So why are only half of Canadian children being properly vaccinated?

Canadians are falling behind on their vaccines for once-common childhood diseases like measles and healthcare providers may not be doing enough to remind patients to get vaccinated, according to the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation and the Canadian Coalition for Immunization Awareness & Promotion.

“The evidence for mass immunization for once-common childhood diseases is irrefutable,” says Dave Clements of the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation. “That many parents have become complacent about getting their children properly vaccinated is scandalous, and we are doing our part to clear away some of the confusion surrounding the issues.”

Only half of Canada’s children are properly vaccinated

To underline the seriousness of the issue, the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation has summarized the immunization research in its series Mythbusters and Evidence Boost, which highlights areas where research evidence is strong. In this case, the research delivers a clear message: vaccines save lives and are much safer than the diseases they prevent.

Yet, because of misconceptions regarding the safety of immunizations as well as the complexity of children’s vaccination schedules and family doctors’ poor access to high-tech patient reminder systems, only about half of Canada’s children are properly vaccinated.

“This is a serious public health issue that is not receiving enough attention,” says Dr. David Allison, co-chair of the Canadian Coalition for Immunization Awareness & Promotion. “Vaccines have saved more lives in the last 50 years than any other health intervention, but if immunization rates drop then diseases like diphtheria and mumps will return.” For example, in the1970s in the U.K., when vaccination rates for whooping cough fell dramatically, more than 300,000 people developed the disease.

As reported by CanWest, before vaccines were introduced in Canada, there were 300,000 reported cases of measles each year, 69,000 rubella, 52,000 mumps and 9,000 diptheria. In 1999, there were only 29 reports of measles, 24 rubella, 90 mumps, and one diptheria.

Avoiding vaccines could lead to re-emergence of killer diseases

The global community has experienced tragic repercussions for avoiding vaccinations because of their potential adverse affects. In 1975, less than 40 per cent of children in Japan received pertussis immunizations when two infants died after being vaccinated. The following year, Japan was faced with a pertussis epidemic that lasted three years, killed over 100 people and made 13,000 sick.

And a scare in the late 1990s linking measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) shots to the incidence of autism led many in Great Britain to avoid the vaccinations. Soon after, both England and Ireland experienced outbreaks of measles.

Misinformation about vaccines

The reasons people hesitate to get vaccinated are largely due to misinformation. Take the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine for example. While some critics claim it can cause developmental problems in children, including autism, Mythbuster suggests there is no credible evidence of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. In fact, vaccines have almost eliminated once-common potentially deadly diseases like measles, mumps, and tetanus in the developed world – the same diseases that used to kill half of children before their eighth birthday.