May 15, 2014 4:24 pm

B.C. parent speaks out about vaccinations after nearly losing a child to Chickenpox

Ten-year-old Beckett Lawson with his sister.

The father of a child who nearly died from contracting Chickenpox from an unvaccinated child is urging other parents to get their children vaccinated.

Four years ago, Jason Lawson’s 10-year-old son Beckett became sick with leukemia and had to undergo chemotherapy.

“Once he made it through the majority of treatment, he was put on a lower dose of chemotherapy, so he was still immuno-compromised,” says Lawson. “But we were able to take a chance and send him to school, so that he could live somewhat of a normal life.”

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He says at school, Beckett got exposed to another child, who was unvaccinated for Chickenpox and contracted the disease.

“Of course, Beckett being immuno-compromised and exposed to that child at school, picked up Chickenpox as well,” says Lawson.

Beckett was hospitalized and treated with anti-viral therapy.

Fortunately, there was no permanent damage to his organs.

But Lawson says the scare made them think about the bigger impact of vaccinations.

“In Beckett’s case, he was immuno-compromised and out in the community trying to live a normal life and was affected,” says Lawson. “But there are also so many other people, not just children, but the elderly and anybody fighting an illness or taking medication that causes them to be immuno-compromised.”

READ MORE: What B.C. doctors learned from the province’s measles outbreak

Community Health nurse Shayne Reilly says they have seen an increase in the number of parents choosing not to vaccinate their children over the years, but says their role is to make sure parents have the information they need to make an informed decision about their child’s health.

“If they are a conscious objector, we do respect that, but we just want to make sure that they are given opportunity to make an informed decision,” says Reilly.

A recent measles outbreak in the Fraser Valley had local health authorities sounding the alarm about the importance of vaccinations.

B.C. Chief Medical Officer said the outbreak was the largest in 30 years.

Over the course of four weeks, the Fraser region recorded over 400 cases of measles.

Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) says all children starting at age four should get their booster shots to protect against Chickenpox, polio, tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough before kindergarten starts in September.

VCH Medical Health Officer Dr. Meena Dawar says vaccines can pose minor side effects, but are generally safe.

“It’s much safer to get the vaccine than to get the disease,” says Dawar.

Vaccines can be obtained for free from family doctors or from public health nurses at VCH community health centres.

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