After latest measles case, Sask. hopes to boost vaccinations

Following the latest measles case in Saskatchewan, health officials have raised concerns that not enough people have been vaccinated to prevent further outbreaks.

12 confirmed cases in last 6 months

Following the latest measles case in Saskatchewan, health officials have raised concerns that not enough people have been vaccinated to prevent further outbreaks.

However, Saskatchewan's chief medical officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, also says he's not convinced mandatory vaccination would be a good idea.

On Thursday, the Saskatchewan government was responding to a new confirmed measles case and three possible cases — all involving children — in the Lloydminster area.

In Saskatchewan, close to 90 per cent of children have a measles vaccine by the time they're two years old. 

However, two doses are required for maximum protection — and a quarter of all Saskatchewan children have not received that second shot.

That rate is too low to prevent future outbreaks, Shahab said. He urged parents to check their children's records and get their shots up to date.

Shahab said mandatory vaccinations is not something he's pushing for.

"Immunization records are reviewed in Grade 1, Grade 6 and Grade 8. So while we don't have mandatory immunization, we have regular reviews of immunization," he said.

In the past six months, amid a continent-wide spike in cases, Saskatchewan has had 12 confirmed cases of measles and three probable cases. Some of the Saskatchewan cases involved unvaccinated people visiting countries where measles is more common.

Education is key, ministry says

A media relations official with the Ministry of Health said Thursday Saskatchewan is "not actively considering" a mandatory immunization program for school-aged children.

"Our approach is to educate and engage parents in keeping their children up to date with routine vaccinations before they begin attending school, and helping them understand the importance of vaccination," the officials said in a prepared statement. "We know our vaccination coverage rates need to improve and there are checks and balances in the public health and education systems to help us do that."

A mom changes her mind

The topic of immunization was also discussed on CBC Radio's Bluesky program, with host Garth Materie taking phone calls from listeners.

One caller, Monique McKay from Spy Hill, phoned in to talk about why she and her husband changed their minds about vaccinations. The McKays have six children and chose to not have them vaccinated for years.

The turning point came when her husband was doing some restoration work at an old church in rural Saskatchewan and they were walking through the grounds and the church cemetery.

"Wandering around that graveyard with [our baby at the time] and watching how many children under two were buried there ... and thinking about what those parents had gone through," she said. "If that mother was standing in front of me, right now, and I told her that I was choosing to not vaccinate my baby because there was possibly a one in 100,000 chance ... that he could contract something like autism or whatever, what would she say to me? I'm pretty sure she'd tell me to get the shot."

A study suggesting a link between the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine and autism in 2010 was retracted and Health Canada has stated there is considerable evidence to refute the claims that the vaccine could cause autism.

There is no cure for measles or whooping cough, but the diseases can be prevented with a vaccination.