Modern medicine vs. social media

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Added: Wed, 03/13/2019 - 11:12pm
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Darlene Pashak
Éditorialiste Invitée
Guest Editorialist

Ever heard of polio? Probably. Do you personally know someone who suffered from it? Probably not. With the introduction of a vaccine in 1955, after tens of thousands of children contracted the disease, Canada declared polio eradicated in 1994. Only three countries in the world have never stopped transmission of polio.
Ever heard of measles? Probably. Do you personally know someone who suffered from it? Probably. Recent breakouts around the world are causing resurgence in this highly contagious disease, which is neither common nor necessary in childhood. Similar to polio, measles in Canada was eliminated in 1998; incidences are attributed to non-immunized Canadians importing measles from other countries.
Check out the headlines from January/February this year: nine confirmed cases in Vancouver; Japan reported 167 cases; in the Philippines, 136 people, mostly children, have died of measles, with 8,400 others sick; and a massive outbreak in Madagascar is responsible for hundreds of deaths.
Immunization rates have declined around the world, and experts cite many reasons for this, including the “anti-vax” movement that has scare-mongered parents into believing the vaccine causes negative reactions or autism. In fact, recent research shows a lower incidence of autism among children who have received the MMR vaccine, as well as fewer deaths from unrelated illnesses like pneumonia and diarrhea.
The WHO has declared the anti-vaccination movement one of 2019’s top 10 health threats, as measles cases have risen globally by 30%, (although not all of these cases are attributable to vaccine hesitancy).
Unfortunately, the impact of actually contracting measles is minimized. It isn’t until there is an outbreak, or the news reports of a child’s death (one-two children of 1,000 will die) or another serious impact from measles (1/10 will get an ear infection that can lead to permanent deafness; 1/20 will develop pneumonia) that parental fear motivates a vaccination.
Among many of the reasons parents may be reluctant to vaccinate their children, influence from their social networks figures prominently. Friends, family and social media inform these decisions, and if inaccurate information is circulating, poor decisions will result. The anti-vax movement has capitalized on the opportunity to spread its messages using social media.
What if we could use social networks to combat that message? Consider sharing
vaccine-positive attitudes with others through social media platforms and in everyday conversations. Quash misinformation (e.g. vaccines cause autism) with correct information (e.g. vaccines are SAFE) and your personal experience (e.g. my children and I are vaccinated, and none of us have major health issues as a result). Gently bring awareness to parents who are debating vaccination through personal examples.
Parents need understanding and information, not criticism. We all truly want what's
best for our children, and vaccinating is the answer. Don’t let your family and friends believe otherwise!