Canada’s concerns over the spread of measles

Written by Samantha Porzio, CNN

“Not one,” exclaimed Gilles Vaillancourt, head of pediatric health services for the Quebec Department of Health, as he approached the other side of the crowd outside the public health department in Quebec City.

Vaillancourt’s remarks speak to the sentiment that infectable strains of one of the most common childhood illnesses can be eliminated in Canada, one of the world’s most medically developed nations.

To date, 200,000 cases of measles have been reported in Canada since January 2019, and 90% of those were reported in Quebec.

The surge in measles has caused major concern for the Canadian province’s health system, where there are 86,000 residents immunized against measles — more than five times higher than the average, according to the province’s health minister.

Last year, the rate of vaccinated students enrolled in provincial schools exceeded the minimum standard by nearly 10%.

“We want to be much better prepared for a possibility, which has been discussed here recently — a possible failure of vaccines to protect people,” Vaillancourt said.

Influenza epidemic

Parents are not the only ones who are worried that failing vaccines could expose their children to pathogenic illnesses. A report published this week by the Canadian Journal of Public Health estimated that if the all-together insufficient vaccination coverage in Canada continued, the number of people who become infected with measles would grow significantly each year.

The report outlined the potentially devastating consequences of a significant decline in immunization, which could result in a larger-than-average decline in coverage from 11% to 3% over the course of a single year.

“The vaccine supply and the purchase of vaccines are a commitment by public bodies, but the funding required is non-negotiable. If the resources don’t come through, no vaccines are produced, no vaccines get sent out, no vaccines can be administered,” Vaillancourt said.

“We’re not just talking about a disruption in vaccines coming and going. The vaccines that are made today cannot be produced without the funds we have now.”

Throughout the campaign, the Parti Quebecois (PQ) has been vocal about the deficit of anti-vaccination sentiment in Quebec, and claims the recent spike in measles cases could partly be attributed to a fear-based approach among young voters.

“Quebecers don’t have a belief, but they have a sensitivity,” said PQ leader Jean-Francois Lisee. “If we can change this, we will take the road to prosperity.”

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