Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer speaks out on measles outbreak and vaccine hesitancy

By Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada

I am very concerned to see vaccine-preventable diseases, particularly those as serious and highly contagious as measles, making a comeback in Canada and around the globe.

From my perspective, even one child dying of measles is unacceptable. In an era where, thanks to the success of vaccines, we are no longer familiar with these dangerous illnesses, some parents have come to fear the prevention more than the disease.

Seeds of doubt are often planted by misleading, or worse, entirely false information being spread in campaigns that target parents on social media and the internet. It is no wonder some parents are confused and concerned.

Parents want only the best for their children, always. Some parents may question, hesitate or delay vaccinating their children for a variety of reasons, but they all want to protect their children from harm. Yet over the past few weeks, we have heard Canadian parents speak to the media about watching their children suffer through measles, a vaccine- preventable disease. Some have spoken of difficult recoveries that have taken weeks or months, sometimes leaving permanent disabilities, and heartbreakingly, some have spoken about losing their children.

Sadly, as a paediatric infectious disease specialist, I have witnessed the devastating effects of vaccine preventable diseases on the lives of children and their families. Healthcare providers are on the front lines of this battle between truth and misinformation.

We must support parents as they tease apart fact from fiction. How we talk to parents who have questions about vaccines can have a direct effect on improving their confidence and supporting them in getting their children vaccinated.

I urge my fellow healthcare provider colleagues to take the time to answer the questions of concerned parents, and in turn, I urge parents and guardians to ask questions and seek out trusted and reliable sources of information to help guide them.

To that end, I am including links to some top Canadian websites providing credible information on vaccines.

The Public Health Agency of Canada

Immunize Canada

Canadian Paediatric Society

Keeping Canadians, especially our children, healthy and free from disease is our shared priority. In the weeks and months ahead, I will work with partners and stakeholders to continue to address the misinformation around vaccines. The health of our children and of our country deserves nothing less.

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