After hearing about the recent outbreak of Measles in Los Angeles, it makes me ask the question, should it be mandatory for all children to be immunized? For myself, I agree that immunization is the way to go. All three of my kids are up to date with their shots but here In BC, Canada, parents have a choice whether to immunize their children or not.
In California, that is not the case. They have implemented a strict rule that all kids need to be immunized regardless of religious or personal beliefs. The rule came about after an outbreak that happened in Disneyland back in 2014 where 145 people were affected across the United States as well as dozens in Canada and Mexico. California is just 1 of the 3 states that have this strict law and the only way to get out of it is if a doctor provides medical exemption.
According to the LA Times, health experts are saying immunity to the disease has eroded
Although this new legislation has been in effect for about 6 months, there’s still a lot of work to be done, according to the article written in LA times. In LA, students are not required to show proof of immunization till kindergarten or seventh grade which means children who have opted out prior to this legislation have been in the school system unvaccinated. The article, also points out that many adults have not been vaccinated as well. After health workers in the LA county chased down where the infected individuals may have went, they came to the conclusion that approximately 2000 individuals may have been exposed and about 10% of those individuals have not been vaccinated.
Why should we be worried about measles?
Measles is a very dangerous viral disease. It is highly contagious and it affects mostly children. There is no specific treatment against this virus and the only defence against it is immunization. If an an infected person enters the room, they can leave and the virus will remain for 2 hours. For most children, they will get better within 2-3 weeks, but for individuals who are malnourished or who have weakened immune systems, it can be very detrimental leading to some very serious complications.
How is measles transmitted?
According to the WHO, “Measles is transmitted via droplets from the nose, mouth or throat of infected persons. Initial symptoms, which usually appear 10–12 days after infection, include high fever, a runny nose, bloodshot eyes, and tiny white spots on the inside of the mouth. Several days later, a rash develops, starting on the face and upper neck and gradually spreading downwards.”
Why should everyone get immunized?
According to the CDC, there are 5 reasons why everyone should be immunized.
Their first reason is to protect those you care about. Some babies are just too young to be completely immunized and somepeople may not be able to be immunized due to allergies, illness or weakened immunize systems, so getting the vaccine would help to protect those people.
The second reason reason they give is that getting vaccinated can save you time and money. When your kid is sick, of course you have to pull them out of school or daycare and then who will look after them? Of course yourself or a family member. If you have no one else to look after them, the you have to stay home which means you won’t be able to work.
The third reason is that we protect future generations. Vaccinations have proven so effective that they have eliminated the need to give small pox vaccinations. Small pox no longer exists. Vaccines have decreased diseases that have killed and severely disabled people a few generations back.
The fourth reason they give is vaccination can save your child’s life. According to the CDC, “Some diseases that once injured or killed thousands of children have been eliminated completely and others are close to being gone – primarily due to safe and effective vaccines.” For example, polio is a disease that has been eradicated in the United States. Many Americans were fearful of polio as it could cause death and paralysis. Because of the vaccine, there are no reports of polio in the US.
The fifth reason they give is that vaccination is safe and effective. They state that their comprehensive studies have shown no link between vaccines and autism. The vaccine has been so successful that death caused by measles has decreased by 75% according to the WHO, from 544 000 deaths in 2000 to 146 000 in 2013.
Why do some parents decide not to get their kids vaccinated?
Some parents decide not to immunize their children because they believe in something called herd immunity. Herd immunity is when such a large group of people have been vaccinated that they think they will be safe from the virus. However, in order for there to be herd immunity, 96-99% of people need to be immunized. Measles is just that contagious.
Since it is not mandatory to get immunized here in BC, I believe that parents need to be well informed before they decide not to immunize their child. Family doctors as well as other health professionals should make it a point to educate parents on the topic to make sure they understand the possible consequences of not getting immunized.
For more information from the CDC, click here.
For information from the WHO, click here.
To read more about the outbreak in LA from the LA Times, click here
Stay happy and healthy everyone!