An infectious disease expert at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax says health officials must make it easier for parents to get children immunized for measles, and other diseases.

The recent measles outbreak in British Columbia concerns many people.

Dr. Noni MacDonald estimates about 80 per cent of children in Nova Scotia have all their shots and 90 per cent should have the measles prevention dose.

MacDonald is part of an international team trying to determine why some families do not take children for their shots.

"Convenience is a big issue. For example, suppose you work at a Tim Hortons or you work at some other place where you're paid by the hour and if you don't work, you don't get anything — it's really hard for people to take time off work then to go and get an immunization," said MacDonald.

Face of boy with measles; third day of rash - CDC

This 1963 photo of a boy on the third day after developing a measles rash is provided to the public domain through the U.S. Centre of Disease Control's Public Health Image Library. (CDC)

"That's why it's very important that we make immunizations as convenient as we can for people to get it. We remove the barriers for it."

MacDonald is a former dean of the Dalhousie University medical school. She said the risks of complications from the needles are less than the risk of getting the actual disease.

Measles is spread through the air. Complications of measles can include pneumonia, ear infections, brain infections, other infections and in, rare cases, death.

People who have received two doses of measles-containing vaccine, or who have been previously infected with measles, or who were born before 1970, are generally protected from infection.

Symptoms include:

  • Fever, cough and runny nose.
  • Red, irritated eyes and light sensitivity.
  • Small white, grey or blue spots in the mouth.
  • Red, blotchy rash, which is the last symptom to appear. The rash appears on the face and then spreads down over the body, and will begin to fade after about a week.