With cases of measles spreading through North America, the message to vaccinate has never been louder.
© Herald file photo
Dr. Khami Chokani, medical health officer for the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region, reminds everyone to make sure their immunizations are up to date.
Dr. Khami Chokani, Prince Albert Parkland Health Region (PAPHR) medical health officer, said it is extremely important to get immunized.
“It is really important to vaccinate children because vaccines protect against the highly communicable diseases that we do have vaccines for,” he said. “It does let them lead healthy lives and I think you are quite aware of the issue we are facing now of measles.”
He said measles is a good example of why people should be vaccinated, as it is one of the most highly contagious diseases.
“It doesn’t take much to get measles. But guess what? It doesn’t take much to protect from measles by having your measles immunization and making sure they are up to date,” Chokani said. “The reason why disease spreads in a community is because there is no immunity to that particular strain at that time.”
Vaccinations are also more effective than being exposed naturally to a disease, Chokani said, such as having a chicken pox party to expose children to the disease.
“Unfortunately that doesn’t help because all you are doing is exposing a person to one particular strain of that chicken pox,” he said. “When that person is exposed to another strain of chicken pox, they will get the chicken pox.”
The chicken pox vaccine is now part of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination.
“We have combined it because it means one less shot the child has to take but two, the preparations are such that we are able to have this combination of virus particles available, identifiers available for the body to prime its immune system so it is aware,” Chokani said.
He said viruses and bacteria can mutate, which is why it is important to vaccinate, because it helps your immune system to see through the outer disguise to the root of the virus.
“Just because a bacteria or a virus comes around and causes you to have a hacking cough that lasts one week, the next time it comes around, it may be one that causes you to have a really bad cough that lasts two days or a lingering one that will last four to six weeks,” he explained. “It is the same bacteria, but it is a different strain. It has changed.
“Each one of these bacteria, each one of these organisms changes,” he added. “What a vaccine does is it helps your body recognize the core, the essential components that make up that organism … It stimulates your body to be able to see through these different charades that these organisms use in order to get a hold of a place where an organism can multiple or go on ahead to infect others or a place where the organism can get and cause illness.”
For those who claim to never get sick, Chokani said that also isn’t a reason to avoid vaccinations.
“You need to take it because organisms don’t infect and kill every single thing it lives in,” Chokani said. “It needs a place to multiple in. That person is the perfect factory for those organisms.”
Are vaccines connected to autism?
The anti-vaccinate movement started in 1998 when researcher Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues published a paper lining autism to vaccinations.
Since then, it has been proven that Wakefield falsified his data and there is no link between vaccines and autism.
“The science shows, the science has been showing, the evidence is there that that is not true at all, at all, at all, at all,” Chokani said.
He compared it to buying a damaged vehicle, but the owner tries to say it is in working condition.
“That is what he has done. For starters, he falsified his data,” Chokani said. “He went and said, ‘That car is perfect, 100 per cent.’ And yet you could see it was accident damaged and you still went and took it.”
According to a poll of 1,997 Saskatchewan residents done by Mainstreet Technologies this month, 20 per cent of those polled think vaccines could cause autism.
“It is a concern and it is not only the science, but even from what we see around us,” Chokani said of their beliefs. “You know what happens when people don’t take immunizations.”
With cases of measles on the rise in North America, 51 per cent of those polled support allowing schools to refuse unvaccinated children.
"What's concerning is 20 per cent of residents agree vaccines could cause autism, and that 15 per cent don't believe lower immunizations rates will cause serious health problems,” president of Mainstreet Technologies, Quito Maggi said. “There are many children who cannot be immunized and who are depending on herd immunity for their well-being.”
The poll also showed 31 per cent of residents don’t believe parents should have a say in whether their children are vaccinated or not, but 55 per cent believe parents should have the ultimate say.
Check vaccinations before travelling
Since winter break is coming up, Chokani advised people check their vaccination status before travelling.
“Make sure your immunizations are up to date, especially if you are travelling with young children or you are going to be coming back to where there are young children or loved ones who may not be 100 per cent well,” Chokani said. “If you are travelling and you come back and are not feeling well, please, please, please, call your health-care provider or call the HealthLine (811). Let them know where you went and what your complaints are because then they will be able to guide you. We don’t want somebody to come back with measles.”
He said this is especially important for those travelling in the States to locations in California or Arizona, where there are more cases of measles being reported.
Some symptoms of measles are a runny nose, red eyes, a rash, a cough, change of appetite and an odd taste in the mouth.
“If you are feeling anything that is not what you normally feel, it usually means there is something wrong going on and you should get some advice, either from your family doctor or your family nurse practitioner or the HealthLine.”
Anyone needing health advice before going on a trip can call the travel health clinic at 306-765-6506. To get children vaccinated or check to see if their immunizations are up to date, call 306-765-6510.
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