Ontario Medical Association, health unit target anti-vaccine myths

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Submitted by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit

The Ontario Medical Association and the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit are underscoring the importance of being immunized.

Keeping children up to date with their immunizations is an important way to keep them and the whole community healthy.

“On behalf of Ontario’s 31,500 practicing doctors I want to say that vaccines work, vaccines are very safe, vaccines are vital to the health and well-being of us all and parents should not be swayed by the misinformation they find online,” says Dr. Sohail Gandhi, President, Ontario Medical Association.

With more than 50 staff members, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s immunization team plays a fundamental role in the agency’s mandate to protect the health of the people of the region.

Vaccination is one of the most successful public health interventions in history. It has led to the elimination and control of dangerous and infectious diseases such as smallpox, polio, diphtheria, measles, and pertussis (whooping cough). It was not long ago that these diseases caused many Canadian children to become severely ill or die.

Measles, for example, can cause pneumonia, encephalopathy (brain inflammation), and serious problems even years after the initial infection. Children are more vulnerable and can become very sick very quickly. When a large percentage of the community is vaccinated—about 95 per cent for measles—the disease cannot spread easily, protecting everyone.

“In Simcoe Muskoka, the coverage rates in 2018-2019 for the nine vaccines required under the Immunization of School Pupils Act range from 91.5 per cent to 94.8 per cent,” said Dr. Gardner. “While these rates compare favourably with the rest of the province, we still seek to improve on them. We are concerned that some people are becoming hesitant about immunization because of misinformation being spread. Vaccines are safe and effective, and by being immunized, you protect your family, friends and people you work with.”

Parents want to make the best decisions for their children. Sixty-three per cent of parents in Canada look for immunization information on the Internet and half of these do a simple Google search. This is very concerning because much of the information circulating about vaccination on websites and social networks is unreliable, inaccurate and may discourage parents from getting their children vaccinated.

For these reasons, the OMA has launched a multi-channel public relations, social media and advocacy campaign to target the spread of anti-vaccine myths using #AskOntarioDoctors.

For more information about the campaign, to listen to the podcast or get the factsheet, visit askontariodoctors.ca.

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