COLUMN: Immunization a ‘community’ responsibility

Some provinces require children to be vaccinated before they can attend public school. How long before others follow suit?

COLUMN: Immunization a ‘community’ responsibility

On Point by Andrew Holota

Vaccinate your child against serious, potentially deadly, preventable diseases – or not? … Really?

When we started our baby’s immunization program, the thought foremost in my mind was how thankful we can be that modern medicine has all but eradicated nasty infectious diseases like polio, diphtheria, chickenpox and measles.

That we wouldn’t protect our child against these illnesses was an utter non-starter. We also had her vaccinated for meningitis, which was not covered under publicly funded medical coverage, but we paid the considerable fee to do so, and were glad to have the opportunity.

Frankly, at the time I didn’t really think about the larger responsibility – that being the protection of other children who would be in contact with our child and could contract an illness from her for which she was not immunized.

Yet that is a key social question, one which rises again with measles outbreaks in Disneyland and Quebec, linked to unvaccinated adults and children.

Meanwhile, health authorities state that more than 30 per cent of babies in the Fraser Health region are not getting vaccinated on schedule, many as the result of inadvertent parental non-compliance, such as forgetfulness or confusion over timing requirements. Other parents, however, withhold their kids from immunization due to ideological opposition or apprehension of side effects.

I don’t accept the fear-mongering about some outdated medical study that ostensibly found a link between measles vaccination and autism. It’s been reviewed and debunked by the modern medical world.

Which raises another point: If we are to fear vaccinations, we should also be spooked – and some people are – by every other medication and medical treatment commonly prescribed by the doctors of this country, who are among the best in the world.

Of course, they’re not infallible. They make mistakes, and occasionally a particular pharmaceutical has been proven to have previously unknown ramifications, some grievous, despite extensive testing and trials.

Given the incredible complexity of modern medicine, it would be a miracle if neither ever occurred.

Yet we’re not talking about a new cancer drug therapy or heart medication here. Common vaccines are just that – common. Billions of kids around the world have been successfully and safely immunized against serious diseases like polio, which used to kill and cripple millions, but is expected to be wiped out around the globe with another few years of vaccination.

If there was a significant health threat posed by such programs, as opposed to their immense benefit, I firmly believe the world’s best medical minds would identify and rectify it.

And yes, I brush off conspiracy theories that major pharmaceutical companies control all the world’s scientists, researchers, doctors, centres for disease control, and international health organizations.

No, clearly, I do not fear vaccines, just like I do not fear electromagnetic radiation from smart meters, and the effects of jet contrails. Nor do I accept an ideology that would dictate an objection to vaccination.

Those who subscribe to such theories and beliefs are free to do so, and equally free to express their views – particularly if they do so in a civil, reasonable fashion.

The vaccination issue is unique, though, in that it has a “community” element.

Aside from the primary responsibility to shield our children from harm, we all have a shared responsibility to respect and protect the health of each other’s kids, especially when it comes to preventable, infectious diseases.

I accept that. Others apparently do not.

Ontario, Manitoba and New Brunswick require children to be vaccinated before they can attend public school. In the context of the above, how long before others follow suit?

Andrew Holota is the editor of The Abbotsford News.