Thunder Bay

Nearly 90% of Thunder Bay-area 7-year-olds properly vaccinated, health unit says

Public health officials in the Thunder Bay, Ont., district say just under 90 per cent of seven year-olds in the region are properly vaccinated as outbreaks of measles across North America, including cases in southern Ontario, grab headlines.

Promotion from public health officials comes amidst measles outbreaks across North America

Public health officials in Thunder Bay, Ont., say 89.7% of seven-year-olds in the region are properly vaccinated. (Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images)

Public health officials in the Thunder Bay, Ont., district say just under 90 per cent of seven year-olds in the region are properly vaccinated as outbreaks of measles across North America, including cases in southern Ontario, grab headlines.

89.7 per cent of seven-year-olds, based on the 2017-2018 school year, were up-to-date for all required vaccinations under the Immunization of School Pupils Act, said Kandace Belanger, the acting manager of the vaccine preventable disease program at the Thunder Bay District Health Unit. Those include immunization against diseases like:

  • measles
  • mumps
  • rubella
  • diphtheria
  • pertussis or whooping cough
  • tetanus
  • polio
  • meningococcal disease
  • varicella or chickenpox

"We try and focus our efforts on that 10 per cent [that aren't immunized] to determine what the reasons are that they may not be getting vaccinated," Belanger said of efforts the health unit undertakes to promote getting necessary vaccines.

"Whether that's through giving them appropriate information or directing them to the appropriate care provider."

Belanger said there are no confirmed cases of measles in the Thunder Bay health unit's coverage area.

Over 90 per cent of seven-year-olds in a given district should be properly vaccinated, Dr. Nadia Alam, the president of the Ontario Medical Association, told Metro Morning in early April, as it ensures that "herd immunity" is intact in order to prevent most outbreaks.

"Herd immunity is kind of like a wall," she said. "Every person who gets vaccinated is another brick in the wall."

"So, if you have 90 per cent herd immunity within a community ... then there's very little chance of an outbreak happening — the kind of outbreaks we're seeing all around the world and across North America now."

Those types of outbreaks are why public health officials say it's so important they continue to provide information to people of all ages about why keeping up to date on vaccinations is necessary.

"We're seeing resurgence of a disease that was essentially determined to be eradicated ... in Ontario and now we're seeing cases again," Belanger said of measles. "So I think it highlights the importance of ensuring that those that are eligible are immunized to protect everybody."

"I think it's always important in public health to be, sort of, the voice of accurate information about immunizations," she continued, adding that includes "ensuring that the public is aware of what immunizations they need, where to get those, how to connect with their healthcare provider."

While Belanger said that people choosing not to vaccinate often comes down to a variety and individuality of reasoning, Alam said, from her perspective, it comes down to worry.

"Parents, especially new parents, are overwhelmed already with all of the decisions they have to make for their babies," she said. "There's a lot of misinformation out there, especially on social media."

"It's really caused havoc with trying to get the facts out."
Dr. Nadia Alam is the president of the Ontario Medical Association. (CBC News)

"So [on] behalf of all of Ontario's 31,500 doctors, I'm saying that vaccines are safe, they're vital to the health and wellbeing of the entire community, and people shouldn't be swayed by any information they hear to the contrary," Alam was quoted as saying in an email from the Ontario Medical Association to CBC Thunder Bay.

"Because vaccination has virtually eradicated measles in Ontario, we've forgotten how [devastating] and deadly it can be."

With files from Metro Morning