Get the shot
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.