February 6, 2015 12:51 pm
Updated: February 6, 2015 9:56 pm

Albertans opposed to allowing unvaccinated children in schools

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EDMONTON – Despite overwhelming evidence that vaccines save lives, many see the debate over inoculations as a question of individual freedom versus public good.

A poll released Friday morning shows Albertans have strong opinions about whether parents should have the final say, and many respondents agree kids who are not vaccinated shouldn’t be allowed in school or day care.

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Mainstreet Technologies put forth five questions to 2,838 people across the province to gauge Albertans’ view of vaccinations. Those polled were asked to think about a standard inoculation like the Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccine (MMR) when considering the questions.

The full poll can be viewed at the bottom of this story.

Fifty-three per cent of respondents either somewhat or strongly agreed that schools should refuse admission to unvaccinated students, while 36 per cent disagreed.

Even more Albertans said child care facilities should refuse kids who have not been vaccinated: Fifty-eight percent agreed; only 12 per cent strongly disagreed.

When asked if parents should be able to decide against vaccinating their children, there were strong views at either end of the spectrum. Thirty per cent of respondents said they completely agree; 26 per cent said they somewhat agreed and 32 percent strongly disagreed. Only 10 percent were neutral, and two per cent chose “somewhat disagree.”

Sixty-one per cent of Albertans also agreed that a drop in the vaccination of children will have serious health impacts.

The poll also asked people to agree or disagree with the statement “Some vaccines can cause autism.” Sixty-one per cent of respondents said they somewhat or strongly disagreed; 18 per cent were undecided and 21 per cent agreed. Two per cent of respondents—about 56 people—”completely agreed” that some vaccines can cause autism.  Anti-vaxxers have latched onto the theory, despite a large amount of scientific evidence proving childhood vaccines are safe and don’t lead to autism.

READ MORE: How fading dread of deadly diseases could let them stage a comeback

The poll comes amidst a resurgence of measles cases in North America. A major outbreak traced to Disneyland in California has brought criticism down on the small but vocal movement of parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated. The outbreak has spread across 14 states because so many American parents have decided to forego inoculations.

The measles outbreak spurred Alberta Health Services to remind parents taking kids on spring break how important it is to keep immunizations up to date.

READ MORE: Alberta parents urged to give kids measles vaccine in letter from AHS

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday there have been at least 102 confirmed measles cases in 14 states in 2015. Ninety-four of those cases were related to the Disneyland outbreak.

Six measles cases were confirmed this week in Ontario, where officials are trying to determine if or how the cases are connected. Until a link is found, authorities are assuming the virus is still spreading and more infections will occur.

Measles is a highly contagious virus which spreads by small drops of fluid, released when someone infected with the virus coughs or sneezes. The droplets can remain in the air for some time afterwards. It’s so contagious that 90 per cent of people who aren’t immunized are infected if exposed to the virus, according to the CDC.

The incubation period—the  time it takes for an exposed person to develop symptoms—is  seven to 21 days, though most infections become apparent in 10 to 14 days.

It’s estimated that 95 per cent vaccination coverage is needed to maintain herd immunity, the term used to describe the situation in which enough people are vaccinated that the virus can’t continue to spread.

People born before 1970 –when measles vaccine use began—are assumed to have had the disease. Canada was able to stop domestic spread of the virus in the late 1990s. As a result, any measles cases that occur now are sparked by virus importation—in  a returning Canadian or an infected visitor—or  spread from the person who imported the virus.

The poll had a margin of error +/- 1.84%, 19 times out of 20.

With files from the Canadian Press

© 2015 Shaw Media

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