Get the shot

Cape Breton Post - - EDITORIAL -

There’s an out­break of measles in Nova Scotia, and there are out­breaks of mumps in Al­berta and Bri­tish Columbia.

In Nova Scotia, the cur­rent count of measles cases stands at seven, while there are 17 cases of mumps in Toronto, four pos­si­ble cases in Ed­mon­ton and eight peo­ple with the ill­ness in Medicine Hat, Alta. At least one player on the Van­cou­ver Canucks has been con­firmed to have the ill­ness, and an­other three have symp­toms.

We live in a land of fre­quent air travel, and west-end bars in Toronto — be­lieved to be the source of that city’s mumps out­break — are only a few hours by air from Syd­ney or St. John’s or Sum­mer­side. To­day’s air­plane seat­mate might well be to­mor­row’s source of an­other satel­lite out­break. It doesn’t need to hap­pen.

Both measles and mumps are dis­eases that, while they aren’t com­pletely blocked by our vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams, are safely kept from full-scale out­breaks by the fact that a large per­cent­age of the pop­u­la­tion doesn’t catch or spread the in­fec­tions.

Both measles and mumps are part of the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vac­ci­na­tions that chil­dren are sup­posed to get, but that some par­ents have de­cided not to have their chil­dren re­ceive.

Some par­ents have made that choice based on a study that sug­gested there could be a con­nec­tion be­tween vac­ci­na­tion and autism. That study has been com­pletely dis­cred­ited by fur­ther re­search. Still, enough peo­ple be­lieve in junk sci­ence to threaten the health of chil­dren.

Fair enough, you might say — if par­ents de­cide to put their chil­dren at risk through their own mis­guided in­ten­tions, so be it. (Although chil­dren, not hav­ing any in­put, de­serve bet­ter care.)

The prob­lem is that it’s not just risk­ing the health of your own chil­dren; vac­ci­na­tions don’t work that way. To be ef­fec­tive for all of us — and to do the job they are de­signed for — vac­cines have to reach a point known as “hard im­mu­nity.”

In other words, enough peo­ple in a pop­u­la­tion have to be in­oc­u­lated against a dis­ease that those who are not in­oc­u­lated (or whose in­oc­u­la­tions fail to pro­tect them) won’t be ex­posed to ac­tive in­fec­tion.

If an ever-greater num­ber of peo­ple de­cide not to get MMR in­oc­u­la­tions, the risk of largescale out­break in­creases. And it’s a le­git­i­mate fear: there is enough peo­ple in the United States fore­go­ing vac­ci­na­tion that there are con­cerns a measles epi­demic is pos­si­ble.

Peo­ple die from measles, es­pe­cially chil­dren: 100,000 a year, in fact.

Mumps has com­pli­ca­tions as well, in­clud­ing en­cephali­tis, pan­cre­ati­tis, menin­gi­tis and painful fa­cial and tes­tic­u­lar swelling.

Some­times, you don’t re­al­ize the risk to your chil­dren un­til it’s too late. But you don’t have to be­lieve the news — ask your doc­tor what you should do when it comes to vac­ci­na­tions.

We’re pretty sure we know ex­actly what an­swer you’ll get.

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