Charlotte MacAulay

People need to be reminded just how far we have come as a society in being able to prevent infectious diseases such as polio and measles.

Prior to a vaccine being introduced in 1955, polio outbreaks in Canada were devastating. An estimated 11,000 people were left paralyzed or partially disabled by polio between 1949 and 1954.

Measles is another contagious disease that is all but eradicated in Canada.

However, before vaccinations were introduced in the 1960s, about 300,000 - 400,000 Canadians contracted the measles every year. In 1926, almost 900 Canadians died from measles.

Why are these historical stats so important today? Because, according to a report from Doctor Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, current vaccination rates are not reaching national targets.

A few short decades ago vaccinations were seen as a vital part of keeping a community and individuals healthy. But in today’s age of information overload where so much of what we read or see is misinformation there is a danger of the real truth being hidden.

Looking back reminds us why is important that vaccination rates continue to rise.

There is no reason to have a repeat of conditions prior to the 1960s and while that likely won’t happen, it is alarming to see more than 700 cases of the measles recorded in Canada in 2011. The initial cases have been linked to individuals who contracted the disease during international travel, still the point remains vaccines prevent disease.

The national estimated measles vaccine coverage rate among 2-year-olds was only 90 per cent in 2017. This is below the minimum 95 per cent vaccination coverage needed at the population level to maintain measles elimination.

The message - vaccinations are vital.

Charlotte MacAulay

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