Have a child in an Ontario school? What you need to know about vaccines

TORONTO – Children in Ontario will have to be vaccinated for three more common illnesses before heading back to school in September.

They include whooping cough, meningococcal disease and chicken pox (if the child was born after 2010).

Meningococcal disease is a common cause of bacterial meningitis which can result in hearing loss or brain damage, as well as blood stream infections.

Whooping cough – or pertussis – is a serious infection which can kill infants. There has been a vaccine for this for decades, but vaccination rates have been lower than with other vaccines because it was considered voluntary, and we have now seen pertussis outbreaks as a result of these lower vaccination rates.

“We certainly have seen a drop off in rates and as a result we have seen a resurgence of some of these diseases,” Global News medical contributor Dr. Samir Gupta said.

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Gupta said much of the concern over vaccines is a result of a growing anti-vaccine movement, whose claims have been refuted by scientific studies.

Dr. Gupta spoke about the top five myths of vaccines:

1. Are vaccines linked to autism? No.

This myth originated from a 1998 study that linked the MMR vaccine to autism. Though the study was retracted in 2010 and deemed fraudulent in 2012, it didn’t stop some anti-vaccine spokespeople, like former Playboy model Jenny McCarthy, from perpetuating the myth that autism is linked to vaccines.

“We now have studies in over a million kids who’ve received these vaccines and there haven’t been any demonstrated associations with autism,” Gupta said.

2. Do vaccines cause Multiple Sclerosis? No.

Gupta said that strong studies have looked for an association, and the evidence does not support a link between vaccines and MS.

3. Can you get the flu from the flu vaccine? No.

“We have randomized controlled trials that show that your chance of getting a cold after the flu shot is just about the same as your chance of getting a cold after a placebo shot, so that association doesn’t exist,” Gupta said.

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4. Is there mercury in vaccines? Not anymore.

Thimerosal, which contains mercury, was used to preserve vaccines but has not been shown to cause harm, and hasn’t been used in routine vaccines in Canada since 2001.

5. Do vaccines have any side effects? Yes, but they tend to be minimal.

Vaccines aren’t perfect, Gupta said. People often get sore at the point of the injection, some people faint after getting any shot, and some children get a fever after they’ve been vaccinated.

But Gupta warns that people have to realize that what they’re protecting themselves from is much worse than a sore arm.

“What people really need to think about is the devastating health effects of the diseases we’re trying to prevent with these vaccines,” Gupta said.