Back in April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that Canada’s vaccination rate for measles had surged following an outbreak in Alberta. At that time, Canada was at an all-time high, with around 75 percent of children having been vaccinated. Two years prior, the country had recorded its first measles death in a child under five. “Because of the highly contagious nature of measles, measles can be a dangerous and potentially deadly disease,” said Jeanna Majewski, the CDC’s senior medical epidemiologist. “The fact that measles has been reported in North America for the past two years in children ages 5-17 is a significant public health concern.”
When it comes to vaccines, some Canadians are more protected than others. Back in June, America’s National Public Radio profiled parents who set out to be the first among them to vaccinate their children against measles, and the stories were heartbreaking. One father had already been fighting cancer, and he wanted to help ensure his son wouldn’t be the next to fall ill. Several other families spoke about children with cerebral palsy and autism who’d been immune to dangerous diseases their parents may have contracted as babies. To be able to include their children in the first group of protected Canadians, they needed the go-ahead from one of the country’s national organizations, the Canadian Vaccination Coalition (CVC). They rejected the requests. This is quite unlike the U.S., where nine out of 10 kids — in a country with the highest rate of preventable diseases — are vaccinated for pertussis, or whooping cough. Parents know that vaccines work, and they also know that the CVC won’t stop them from thinking about or expressing their policy of not vaccinating. On Tuesday, the New Yorker reported that 7-year-old Moira Foot has been suffering from complications from an encephalitis virus since she was diagnosed with measles a few months ago. When Dr. Melanie Lee of the BC Child Health Line urged Moira’s parents to get her vaccinated, they’d responded that they had already done so. Moira went into a coma and died the next day.
Canada needs to set higher goals for its national organizations to do something to remedy their view of vaccines. It’s time for Canada to also make vaccinations in general easier to obtain for kids. Currently, the province of Alberta is helping families gather shots at school settings — and requiring only all children enrolled in programs of any kind or description to receive them. Elsewhere, vaccination spaces (along with other vaccines) are subject to the same caps or bans on outbreaks as preventable diseases. Canada should aim higher.
Opinions on vaccination are mixed in Canada — some Canadian politicians, as in the U.S., have proposed strict anti-vaccination measures. The Canadian lawmakers haven’t yet raised their ambitions: Instead, they only fear the possibility of a measles outbreak in their own communities and policies should stay the same.