Measles: Fears and facts

The Glengarry News - - Front Page - BY AN­GELA BROWN News Staff

A dan­ger­ous new trend of some par­ents opt­ing out of hav­ing their chil­dren vac­ci­nated for measles is caus­ing the lo­cal health unit to worry.

Eastern On­tario Health Unit ( EOHU) med­i­cal of­fi­cer of health and CEO Dr. Paul Roumelioti­s says, while this re­gion’s num­bers for vac­ci­na­tions re­main good, with the measles and mumps vac­ci­na­tion rate at close to 90 per cent, a small mi­nor­ity op­poses vac­ci­na­tion. “They have ex­emp­tions, but the ma­jor­ity of the kids we fol­low do get vac­ci­nated,” he re­lates. An anti-vac­cine move­ment has been grow­ing in Canada and the U.S., based on the belief the measles vac­cine is linked to autism. While re­search has dis­pelled that fear, some par­ents still ob­ject to im­mu­niza­tion as they see autism spec­trum dis­or­der num­bers rise in

Canada and the U.S. “I am con­cerned be­cause they are bas­ing their de­ci­sions purely on anec­do­tal and not ev­i­dence-based rea­sons,” said Dr. Roumelioti­s.

An EOHU 2009 re­port shows the pro­por­tion of chil­dren in day­cares who had been im­mu­nized against measles, mumps and rubella was 87 per cent in 2009, 86 per cent in 2008, and 82 per cent in 2007.

In ele­men­tary schools, num­bers for vac­ci­na­tions were 84 per cent in 2009, 83 per cent in 2008 and 80 per cent in 2007. Sec­ondary school stu­dents were at 83 per cent in 2009, 84 per cent in 2008 and 90 per cent in 2007.

Dr. Roumelioti­s ex­plains more re­cent and ac­cu­rate num­bers from im­mu­niza­tion record-keep­ing show about 90 per cent of chil­dren in EOHU have been vac­ci­nated for measles in a 2012 re­port. He added chil­dren need to have two shots in the vac­ci­na­tion cy­cle, first when they are 12 months old and again at be­tween four to six years of age.

He said vac­ci­na­tions re­main one of the most ef­fec­tive med­i­cal tools de­vel­oped over the last cen­tury.

“If we’re talk­ing 50 or 60 years ago and you asked me what the Num­ber 1 killer was and what the rea­son for be­ing sick was I would say it would be tu­ber­cu­lo­sis or po­lio,” he said, adding that to­day po­lio has al­most been elim­i­nated be­cause of the suc­cess of vac­ci­na­tions.

Public Health Agency of Canada stats show that 95 per cent of chil­dren were im­mu­nized against measles in 2011. That was an in­crease from 2009 when 70 per cent were vac­ci­nated. Sim­i­lary, for youth up to age 17, some 88 per cent were vac­ci­nated for measles in 2011 com­pared to 65 per cent in 2009.

Dr. Roumelioti­s says de­spite news re­ports that the num­bers of cases of peo­ple with autism is in­creas­ing, more con­di­tions are sim­ply be­ing re-clas­si­fied and re­named un­der the autism spec­trum dis­or­der um­brella.

“There is no cor­re­la­tion re­lated to vac­cines” to sug­gest a pos­si­ble con­nec­tion be­tween the measles vac­cine and autism, he ob­serves. “I be­lieve there may be other fac­tors,” he com­ments, adding, “Part of the rea­son we are see­ing an in­crease is that now we are nam­ing things that we didn’t name be­fore as autism spec­trum dis­or­der.”

Based on the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion US re­port for autism num­bers, in 2010, one in 68 had the dis­or­der, in 2008 one in 88, in 2004 one in 125, and in 2000 one in 150.

A Na­tional Epi­demi­o­logic Data­base for the Study of Autism in Canada 2012 re­port shows in­creased rates in parts of Canada also. The Public Health Agency of Canada is in the process of de­vel­op­ing a na­tional autism sur­veil­lance sys­tem to pro­vide an ac­cu­rate record of cur­rent num­bers.

Dr. Roumelioti­s stresses that cred­i­ble sources such as the Cana­dian Pe­di­atric So­ci­ety and the Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics will con­firm there is no link be­tween the measles vac­cine and autism spec­trum dis­or­der. De­vel­op­men­tal fac­tors, such as in­born and in­her­ited char­ac­ter­is­tics, may in­flu­ence con­di­tions such as autism spec­trum dis­or­der, he adds.

Mean­while, the num­ber of peo­ple who con­tract measles de­spite the avail­abil­ity of the vac­cine con­tin­ues to grow.

In On­tario, 11 cases have been con­firmed and as many as 114 peo­ple have come down with the dis­ease in the U.S.

Dr. Roumelioti­s notes that new­com­ers to Canada may have left coun­tries where there have been re­cent out­breaks of in­fec­tious dis­eases. Their ar­rival can af­fect the num­ber of cases.

Last week fed­eral Health Min­is­ter Rona Am­brose said par­ents must have their chil­dren im­mu­nized, for the health of their chil­dren and of those they may come in con­tact with.

“I be­lieve as par­ents we want the best for our kids so we do our best to dress them, wash them and feed them, and vac­cines are a part of the well­ness pack­age,” says Dr. Roumelioti­s.

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