REGINA – If you’re not immunized, health officials say the chance of infection when you come into contact with a Measles patient is 98 per cent – but there are many parents still dead-set against vaccinations.
“Because Measles is so infectious, we want vaccination coverage rates of 95 per cent,” said Dr. Denise Werker, Saskatchewan’s deputy chief medical health officer.
As a province, we are close to that number. But not close enough.
By seven years of age, over 91 per cent of Saskatchewan children have been vaccinated against measles. At their second birthday, that number is only 76 per cent.
So why isn’t there a higher uptake? Doctors say some parents believe there is a risk.
“People can die of measles,” said Dr. Tania Diener, medical health officer for the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region. “If you look at what can happen if you have a vaccine? You might get a fever and you might get a rash.”
The rate of all childhood shots – pertussis, measles and meningococcal – is even lower.
Immunization of seven year olds is only 77 per cent, which is well shy of the 95 per cent national target.
The Canadian Paediatric Society is trying to change what it calls a culture of myths.
“Most of which are actually not real and have never been proven,” according to Dr. Marina Salvadori, an infectious disease specialist who sits on the National Advisory Committee for Immunizations.
Salvadori says we’ve lost touch with the impact of illnesses that we thought were eradicated.
“People who grew up in the 1950’s had all seen polio and they were afraid of it,” she said. “Now we’re several generations removed from people who have seen these diseases, so they’ve never seen how deadly and horrible they are.”
From celebrity advice to self-identified experts on social media, public health agencies say the noise around immunization is drowning out an important message.
“I’m not sure we can be louder than Facebook, but we can more credible,” said Werker. “I think that’s the point is that parents need to seek information from the most credible source.”
A source, the province’s top doctor says is only looking out for you and your family.