Time to cool rhetoric on vaccinations, Regina mom says

A Regina mom says she's worried the online debate on vaccinations is getting nasty.

Elyse Seckinger says she's pro-vaccine, but worries about 'back-and-forth bullying'

The debate between "anti-vaxxers" and people who think it's a civic duty to get vaccinated is heating up on social media in Saskatchewan. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

A Regina mom says she's worried the online debate on vaccinations is getting nasty.

Elyse Seckinger supports vaccinations but says bullying or shaming other parents who do not — sometimes referred to as "anti-vaxxers" — will not help the cause.

Seckinger said she has seen "back-and-forth bullying" on Facebook and other social media and thinks people need to cool down.

"It's about understanding where other people are coming from," she said.

"Everyone is an individual and everyone has a past experience that's different than yours. So people need to stop, take a look at that and say 'Why are you feeling this way? Let's talk about it.'"

Saskatchewan saw spike of measles cases in 2014

After being rare for a number of years in Saskatchewan, there were 16 reported measles cases in Saskatchewan between January and April 2014.

In recent months, there have been measles outbreaks at Disneyland in California, a rash of other cases throughout the United States and more new cases in Toronto.

Still, some parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children, saying the effects might be harmful.

Andre Picard, a health columnist for the Globe and Mail, said some of the concerns are fueled by misinformation — including that notion that measles, mumps and rubella shots can cause autism.

"There's a lot of fear that entered, this notion that MMR vaccines can cause autism. That was based on a false paper, a fabricated paper," Picard said.

"But that notion is out there and it's very strong on social media. And how do you break through that?"

Need for flu shots also debated

The debate over vaccinations also extends to flu shots. Some argue it should be purely an individual choice, but others say "herd immunity" is crucially important and getting the shot should be considered a public duty.

It's key for health officials to get across the importance of herd immunity to the public, Picard said.

"The notion there is if you vaccinate enough people, then a pathogen like measles just can't get a foothold," he said. "And that's not always an easy concept to understand. You just say 'Hey my kid's fine'... and you don't think about the larger repercussions."

Seckinger, meanwhile, argues respectful discussion between both sides is what will change minds.

"I have some friends that are anti-vaccination, yes," she said.

"I ask for their opinions, I ask why they believe the things they believe. I ask for backups and links of where they're getting their information from and we just have a discussion about it."

However, suggesting a parent is a bad person for taking one side or another is not the way to go, Seckinger says.

Health region recommends vaccinations

The Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region is recommending measles vaccinations for all children. Two doses are required for maximum protection, the health ministry says. 

The measles vaccine is usually offered in combination with mumps, rubella and varicella in one vaccine at 12 months and again at 18 months.

In Saskatchewan, 89 per cent of children have received one dose of a measles vaccine by age two, but only 75 per cent have received a second dose by their second birthday, officials say.


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