Ontario Medical Association urges vaccination in light of spiking measles cases

The president of the OMA urges people to ask their doctors about vaccines if they are concerned about safety.

There have been 39 cases reported in Canada this year, more than 600 in the U.S.

Dr. Nadia Alam wants people to ask their doctors about safety of vaccines if they are concerned. (Seth Wenig/Associated Press)

Measles cases have spiked in the U.S. and have also appeared across Canada this year, and the president of the Ontario Medical Association wants people to vaccinate.

Dr. Nadia Alam said there has been "a lot of bad information" about vaccines circulating and that doctors are seeing more patients questioning vaccine safety or even opting out of them.

What this means, she said, is diseases that are "virtually eradicated through vaccination, like measles and rubella, can come back and come back quickly."

Cases in North America

So far in 2019, there have been more than 600 cases of measles reported across the U.S. — the highest in 25 years.

In Canada, there have been 39 cases of measles reported this year. Most recently there were cases confirmed in Richmond Hill, Ont. and Newmarket, Ont.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promoted vaccines on Twitter for National Immunization Awareness Week.

He tweeted that vaccines work and they "save lives."

According to Alam, people worried about vaccines are generally more "vaccine hesitant as opposed to completely anti-vaccine."

"If you sit down and talk to them in a mutually respectful way and have a conversation around the risks and benefits of vaccines, they come around, by and large," she said.

Herd immunity

In Windsor-Essex, the vaccination rate for school-age children is around 84 per cent in 2017-18, according to Alam.

However, the optimal rate to reach herd immunity is 95 per cent. Alam described herd immunity as a wall.

"Every person who gets vaccinated is another brick in the wall. And what that means is, it works better to keep the disease out, as opposed to allowing it to come in," she said.

Alam says immunization records for school-age children are important for helping schools manage outbreaks. (CBC News)

The ongoing strike among public health nurses in Windsor-Essex has meant that students with incomplete immunization records are still attending school, which Alam said is concerning.

Immunization records help schools determine which students to suspend in the event of an outbreak, in order to protect those children and their peers.

"Public Health Ontario tries to track immunization rates for a very good reason."

With files from Arms Bumanlag and The Associated Press


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