Lifelong health begins with a healthy start, and one of the most important ways parents can ensure this for their children is by making sure they receive all their vaccinations and receive them at the right time. By choosing to vaccinate, parents are protecting not only their own children, but the lives of all people in their community.
That’s why this spring, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario decided to launch a campaign to “spread facts, not infection.” CHEO and its physicians are urging parents and community members to spread the facts about the benefits of vaccination and counter misinformation circulating in the community and on the Internet. Parents can visit www.spreadfacts.ca to read facts about vaccines and sign an online petition.
“We feel that we have an obligation to make sure the facts are out there, and are rising to that responsibility,” says Dr. Lindy Samson, CHEO’s chief of infectious diseases.
Unfortunately, there has been a resurgence of measles in Canada over the past few months with 193 reported cases since the beginning of the year. To date, there have been children and adults diagnosed with measles in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba.
Measles can be associated with severe complications and can lead to children needing admission to hospital for problems like pneumonia and encephalitis – inflammation of the brain, which can result in permanent brain damage. Pregnant women who get measles can end up having miscarriages, babies born prematurely, or too small.
“While Ottawa is a community with generally good rates of immunization coverage, recent measles outbreaks in Canada and the U.S. have shown us that diseases that were once eradicated in North America continue to be a real threat,” says Dr. Isra Levy, Ottawa’s medical officer of health. “Vaccines are the best protection against the spread of these types of infectious diseases in our community.”
Vaccinations save lives – up to three million children’s lives will be saved this year alone from whooping cough, diphtheria, tetanus and measles vaccines. Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, pneumococcus, measles, rotavirus and haemophilus are all vaccine-preventable diseases. Together, they still cause up to 30 per cent of deaths of non-immunized children worldwide.
Before routine immunizations, many Canadian children died from preventable diseases such as tetanus, measles and polio. Despite relatively few infections from these diseases today, they are still a real threat.
Vaccines not only protect those who are immunized, but offer protection to those who can’t be vaccinated for health reasons, such as those with weakened immune systems. These people rely on herd immunity for protection.
Herd immunity occurs when a large proportion of the population is immune to a particular disease and is able to protect individuals who are not. The greater the percentage of immune people in the population – through vaccination – the less likely it is that a non-immune person will come into contact with an infectious person.
Recently, there has been much speculation about the safety and efficacy of vaccinations. Two of the most touted myths about vaccines are that they cause autism – specifically the MMR vaccine -and that there are harmful chemicals used in their preparation. Neither is true.
Several large studies, as well as multiple evidence-based reviews, have shown there is no causal relationship between the MMR vaccine and the development of autism. This mistaken belief arises due to the fact that the signs of autism appear around the same time that children receive their first MMR vaccine. However, this is simply not true. Studies have shown no difference in autism rates amongst MMR-vaccinated and unvaccinated children.
We know parents want to do what is best for their children. They have the right to accurate, unbiased and up-to-date information, as well as an obligation to use that information when making vaccine-related decisions for their children. Find out how you can spread the facts at spreadfacts.ca and sign the petition at change.org.
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