Health officials have called for Canada’s schools to get “on board” with the federal government’s decision to increase vaccinations for 14 at-risk diseases.
Earlier this month, Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor announced changes to the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine, claiming it had an additional cause: autism.
Government research found certain vaccines are linked to the neurological condition. The new vaccine, MMRV, is recommended for babies and toddlers who have not received MMR. Children younger than 6 are at high risk of measles, but have not yet been infected, the government said.
Canada’s move to a “Measles, Mumps and Rubella Viterra Vaccine” was met with optimism by some parents, and criticism from some public health experts, and now a survey from Immunize Canada shows two-thirds of parents in the country are at least “somewhat likely” to have their children vaccinated against it.
The survey, published Tuesday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, surveyed 7,738 parents of a child younger than 8 and was conducted by Ipsos for Immunize Canada, a group that aims to improve health and availability of vaccines. Respondents were asked their opinion on vaccination for diseases at risk of becoming inactivated in Canada, such as Polio and measles.
The survey found that three-quarters of parents were at least “somewhat likely” to vaccinate their children against Polio, while 58% said they were either very or somewhat likely to vaccinate their children against measles. And 66% said they were “somewhat likely” to get their children vaccinated against Rubella.
The survey results reveal that 60% of parents believed vaccinations were effective, and 55% said they did not know enough about the risks associated with vaccines before deciding to vaccinate. Of those who had questions, 38% said they were either “not comfortable at all” or “not sure” about vaccines and 76% of parents gave their children access to vaccines.
“I’m so confident that vaccines save lives and prevent the spread of infectious diseases,” said Dr. James Turk, president of Immunize Canada, in a statement. “Yet despite this, there are people who remain resistant to any information that doesn’t support their beliefs.”
The government’s move to raise the age limit for its measles, rubella and infant (MMRV) vaccine “requires public health officials to go back to the drawing board,” said Dr. David Juurlink, head of clinical pharmacology and toxicology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto.
“There is a great need for the Canadian medical community to embrace a more open-minded understanding of vaccination,” he said in a statement. “Vaccines are important tools to keep Canada and its citizens protected from these viruses, but vaccines do not save lives alone.”
Despite the survey’s results, “we know children are at higher risk of not receiving vaccines because of factors such as high mobility, a lack of understanding about vaccinations, lack of access to facilities to administer the vaccines, as well as not believing the risks,” said Dr. Tanya Singh, a family physician and epidemiologist with Public Health Ontario.
“Our goal is to increase the supply of vaccines that our patients require and help them make informed decisions about what they and their families should get immunized,” she said.