Crippled by partisan conflict and distrust, many Canadians are facing a vaccine-avoidance epidemic.
Vaccines are one of the essential tools for public health protection against a wide range of ailments such as autism, measles, pertussis, hepatitis and tuberculosis.
According to the annual Health Canada report on vaccine uptake, Canada’s vaccination coverage rate for vaccines against infectious diseases for children is close to 92 per cent.
This means that one in three young Canadians are not protected against disease even though they have been vaccinated.
To be considered unvaccinated, a person must only be unvaccinated on a handful of vaccines in addition to vaccination for communicable diseases.
However, in the United States, doctors have discovered that more than 50 percent of infants are not getting the flu shot because their parents have withheld vaccinations from them. Vaccinations can reduce the risk of spreading communicable diseases in susceptible adults.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) continues to oppose the use of the vaccine. According to a 2012 study, Mormons are only 20 percent more likely to receive the influenza vaccine, compared to Canadian Protestants.
In the United States, the number of people who haven’t received their first influenza vaccine has more than doubled in the past two decades. This has coincided with a rise in the U.S. autism rate since the 1990s.
The drug-company lobby is keen on selling more vaccines, but anti-vaccination activists can also cause a problem.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that unvaccinated people are much more likely to get infected with serious infectious diseases than vaccinated people. This means that vaccination could prevent vaccine refusers from becoming sick.
In India, studies have found a correlation between vaccination refusal and measles deaths.
The World Health Organization reported in 2018 that nearly half of the global child mortality rate occurs in India and an additional 56 million are at risk of death from vaccine-preventable diseases. The corresponding number of children under the age of five is more than 600 million.
According to the World Health Organization, measles has now become the leading cause of death among children under five in several countries, including India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Cambodia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Haiti, Libya, Liberia, Mexico, Mali, Panama, Nicaragua, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda.
Measles is highly contagious and can pose a serious health threat to people who are not vaccinated, including infants, young children, pregnant women, and adults. A measles vaccine is easily accessible and cost-effective, but a refusal to have it can be costly for society as a whole.