‘You’re also protecting other people around you:’ Why vaccines are so important
Facebook and Pinterest are cracking down on the anti-vaccine movement
Kids in B.C. have been staying home from school this winter.
Not because they’re sick — but because other kids around them are sick.
As of March 19, there were 18 confirmed cases of measles in B.C. this year, and kids who aren’t immunized have been told to stay home to avoid contracting the virus.
What is measles?
Measles is a very contagious disease that can be extremely dangerous.
It spreads through the air or from sharing food or drinks with someone who is infected.
There have been several outbreaks of measles in the past few years in Canada and in the U.S. ( U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Canadian Press)
It starts like a cold, but then a fever and rash can develop.
In extreme cases, it can infect the brain and even cause death.
How can you prevent the spread of measles?
“The best and most effective way to prevent measles is to get your measles vaccine,” said Alyson Kelvin, a virologist at the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology in Halifax.
In fact, thanks to the vaccine, Canada was declared measles-free in 1998.
If you’re not sure if you’ve been immunized, ask your parent or guardian to check your vaccination records. (Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images)
But since then, some parents have chosen not to vaccinate their kids because of fears about the dangers of the vaccine.
“There have been countless numbers of studies done to show that the measles vaccine is safe,” Kelvin told CBC Kids News.
But she said she understands why some parents are hesitant.
“[It] comes from a place where they want to do the best for their children,” she said. “It's not always nice to see them be pricked with needles. Parents are trying to gain as much information as they possibly can.”
Since they can’t always get the answers they’re looking for from their doctor, they turn to the internet, where there is a lot of misinformation.
It’s become such a problem that Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube are taking steps to limit posts that spread incorrect information about vaccines.
It's not longer possible to find posts about vaccines on Pinterest. (Pinterest)
Kids learning about vaccines
Kids in B.C. and across the country have been learning about the importance of vaccines through a website called Kids Boost Immunity.
It includes lessons and quizzes about vaccines. When kids win, vaccines are donated to UNICEF to help immunize children in countries that don’t have vaccine programs like Canada.
Senator Reid Elementary school in Surrey, B.C., is leading the charge.
Grade 6 student Manraj Sandhu said “it’s really important to know about this stuff because if some people don’t know, they might not get vaccinated and then they might get the disease.”
Thanks to the website, Zara Thandhi, 11, said she understands the importance of vaccines.
Zara Thandi says now that she knows more about vaccines, she wants to help people understand how important they are. (CBC)
“Getting vaccines can be important because not only are you protecting yourself, you’re also protecting other people around you,” she said.
Check out the video above for more on measles and the vaccine.