Canada’s fight against measles, mumps and rubella

Written by CNN Staff

More than 70% of Toronto residents have been vaccinated — the highest rate of the city’s 12 highest cities — according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. So why are those in some of Canada’s poorest neighborhoods so absent?

The situation becomes even more difficult in indigenous communities where up to one in four people don’t get vaccinated, making Toronto’s immunization figures “a harbinger of disease,” said Amitant Singh, the executive director of Junior Achievement Canada , during a keynote speech at the Health Care Association of Ontario’s awards ceremony.

Almost 6% of the country’s children and teens, or about 750,000 of them, suffer from an unvaccinated status, according to the Canadian Centers for Disease Control. At present, that figure has decreased slightly from a high of 6.4% in 2013.

Rise of the “non-vaccinators”

Much of this is the result of an increase in individuals who are no longer getting vaccinated as a result of a backlash against vaccines, said Singh. Many individuals feel that there are side effects associated with vaccines, an unfounded and exaggerated claim, he added.

Aside from the usual measles, mumps and rubella cases that can be seen around the world, deaths and severe complications from vaccines have also risen, according to the Center for Disease Control.

In 2017, one-quarter of children in the U.S. missed out on the measles immunization (the last two doses of which must be given before a child reaches school age).

Programs, tools, and partnerships

The largest piece of the puzzle in this type of public health problem is education, says Singh. It is integral to getting this population to immunize their children.

Junior Achievement Canada’s marketing campaign “You, a Hero” focuses on two men who achieved “heroic journeys” in achieving good health.

The two men who star in the campaign — played by actors Simon Butler and Andrew Callahan — face each other in a hospital, and offer vaccines to people waiting in line. These people are in line because they have ignored experts’ health recommendations and have missed their measles shot.

Through the campaign, Singh hopes to engage people in a conversation about public health issues, even if they can’t change the current status quo.

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