The Herald has a good article by Katie May warning Lethbridge folks that health care providers in town are worried because of the outbreaks of measles in some B.C. and Ontario communities and the Netherlands. The frequency of travel between the Netherlands and the Lethbridge area has raised the alarm according to Dr. Vivien Suttorp, Alberta Health Services’ medical officer of health for our region. Global Lethbridge also has an article on the subject. The Herald’s May writes:
Alberta Health Services’ target immunization rate for children is 98 per cent, but in some small communities in the region, less than 70 per cent of the population had been vaccinated for measles. In response, AHS is urging the public to get both doses of the measles vaccine and is opening immunization clinics for doctors, nurses and other front-line health-care workers in Lethbridge, Coaldale, Picture Butte and Fort Macleod.
Lethbridge’s last measles outbreak happened about 16 years ago. And in 1999, 17 people in Monarch were infected. That outbreak is believed to have stemmed from an unvaccinated family who had recently returned from a trip to Holland.
The low vaccination rate is very troubling. CTV British Columbia has a news story from Sept 10 on the outbreak there. The article quotes Dr. Victoria Lee from the Fraser Valley Health Authority where 5 of BC’s dozen cases have occurred. “‘For measles, even one case is a serious number,’ she said. ‘In most of the years we’ve had only zero to two cases in the Fraser region… so again, five is a significant concern for us.'” The article adds that vaccinations rates are between 60 and 80% over the past few years. The last paragraph in the CTV article is really chilling:
Last month, the Fraser Health Authority staff had to contact the families of as many as 60 newborns and their mothers after they were exposed to the measles virus by a visitor to the Abbotsford Regional Hospital.
Information about measles can be found at the Public Health Agency of Canada’s site. The graph below is taken from their site.
The government site provides some links to further information, which I copy here verbatim:
- Elimination of Measles, Rubella and Congenital Rubella Syndrome in Canada: Documentation and Verification Report – Executive Summary
- Measles Surveillance: Guidelines for Laboratory Support. CCDR 1999;25
Guidelines and Recommendations
- Guidelines for the Prevention and Control of Measles Outbreaks in Canada – Executive Summary
- 2006 Canadian Immunization Guide, Measles Vaccine Chapter
- 2006 Canadian Immunization Guide Table on Vaccines Currently Approved for Use in Canada, March 2008
The increase in measles cases is troubling given the concerted efforts of numerous anti-vaccination campaigners and their fear-mongering and gospel of defying the bogey man, Big Vaccine, with horror stories of how vaccinations cause autism, etc., claims with no real scientific basis. On the local level, Harvest Haven Health, a local supplier of water filtration equipment, diapers, food, air purifiers, “Grander Energy Boards” (that “revitalize” water), and a pendant that “strengthens the body’s energy field to prevent harm from external energy sources” also takes an anti-vaccination stance. Their site has a page claiming a link between vaccinations and autism. Some of the people from Harvest Haven have a close association with the local anti-fluoride movement and Fluoride Free Lethbridge, e.g. Mark Benson and Sean Fife, (who comment on anti-fluoride issues in the Herald), Martin Van Popta, who has posted on his glaringly colourful blog an online interview with Lethbridge mayoral candidate, Chris Spearman dealing with water fluoridation (Mr. Spearman is a strong defender of fluoridation and the science behind it). Last but not least, is Harvest Haven’s owner, Victor Hafichuk, whose claims of prophecy in the service of denouncing fluoridation can be found on FFL’s website. Claiming to speak in the name of Jesus, Hafichuk calls down divine judgment on “proud white coats” (doctors and dentists) over fluoridation. Ah well… let’s hope that there are enough doctors and nurses in their white coats or blue scrubs to help him and his grandkids if they should get the measles, mumps, rubella, or a toothache, for that matter.
Alberta Health has a page on the province’s 10 year immunization strategy. The Edmonton Journal reported in July that the immunization rates for the flu were particularly low. The need to counter the anti-vaccination movement is great. Too much is at stake.