Pediatric infectious disease conference highlights vaccination wariness

Local doctors are learning about why some people are hesitant to get vaccinated.

Atlanta-based Dr. Robert Bednarczyk spoke on why some parents are hesitant to get children vaccinated

An pediatric infectious disease conference was held in Banff this week. (Chuck Stoody/Canadian Press)

Alberta doctors are learning about why some people are hesitant to get vaccinated.

pediatric infectious disease conference was held in Banff this week, with a Saturday session devoted to vaccination hesitancy, led by Dr. Robert Bednarczyk, an assistant professor at the Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta.

His talk focused on the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, aimed at dispelling some of the myths surrounding it.

"Because it's a vaccine that's being under-utilized relative to many of the other vaccines that we have available," he said.

Bednarczyk would like to see that change.

"I think a lot of it comes down to how we listen to parents, how we talk with the parents, as opposed to talking to parents to really be able to understand their questions and where they're coming from," he said.

Calgary-based pediatrician Dr. Ernesto Pineda-Selva says he has heard it all from parents when it comes to vaccines.

"Some of them say it doesn't work, some of them say it has side-effects," he said.

"Some of them say that they don't need it."

In November, the provincial government introduced Bill 28, aimed at improving vaccination rates in school children by tightening the way immunization records are collected and updated, which came into effect Dec. 9.

Under the bill, Alberta parents will be asked to provide immunization records for their children when registering for school. The bill stops short of making vaccinations mandatory.

Parents whose children are not vaccinated will be contacted by public health officials and told unvaccinated students will be required to stay home during outbreaks of certain highly contagious diseases like measles.

Officials hope the move will increase the vaccination rate from 95 to 98 per cent.

In 2015, 87.1 per cent of two-year-old children in Alberta received their first dose of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. The vaccination rate for chicken pox is 86.6 per cent for children the same age.

With files from Andrew Brown