Measles vaccination rates in Canada have fallen, PHAC says amid global concern – National |

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The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) says it shares the concerns raised by international health experts this week about the renewed risk of measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases among children.

In a statement to Global News on Thursday, the agency noted that measles vaccine intake in Canada has declined in recent years, but noted that the COVID-19 pandemic and the hesitancy of some parents about the vaccine are the reasons for the current decline in vaccinations.

“The provinces and territories of Canada have indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused interruptions, delays and gaps in routine vaccinations for children,” the statement read.

There are currently no active measles cases in the country, but three cases have been reported this year, according to the latest report from PHAC.

A joint report released Wednesday by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) called measles an “imminent” global threat due to declining of vaccine coverage and weakened disease surveillance during COVID-19. 19 pandemic.

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Measles is an imminent threat due to the COVID-19 pandemic, say WHO and CDC

The report noted that in 2021, a record nearly 40 million children worldwide missed a dose of measles vaccine as the pandemic disrupted and delayed routine immunization schedules.

“It’s very concerning,” Shelly Bolotin, director of the Center for Vaccine-Preventable Diseases at the University of Toronto, told Global News on Thursday.

“When coverage is reduced globally, it is a concern for all of us because we live in a globalized world and sometimes imports of measles come from other countries.”

In accordance with WHO guidelines, Canada has set a vaccination coverage target of 95 percent for the first dose of measles at two years and a second at seven years.

A survey conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic showed that 90 percent of two-year-olds had received at least one dose of the measles vaccine. It is a two-dose vaccine, with the second dose given at 18 months, or usually before the child starts school.

However, the pandemic has interrupted childhood vaccination in the country.

Click to play video: 'Possible Consequences of Not Getting Vaccinated Against Measles'

Possible consequences of not getting vaccinated against measles

In Ontario, thousands of students were behind on vaccinations usually given in schools, health officials warned in April.

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Routine immunizations usually provided by doctors, such as the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, have also been delayed in some areas due to the pandemic, they said.

Meanwhile, in Alberta, provincial data from the Calgary area showed in September that immunization rates for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccines dropped from 86 percent of children with two doses to seven years in 2019 to just 78 percent. cent in 2021.

In an earlier interview with Global News, infectious disease specialist Dr. Craig Jenne said that figure is well below the 95 percent coverage needed to prevent a measles outbreak.

A combination of factors such as persistent social distancing measures and the cyclical nature of measles may explain why there has yet to be an explosion of cases around the world despite widening immunity gaps, but that could change quickly, according to the WHO measles leader, Patrick O’Connor.

“We are at a crossroads,” O’Connor told Reuters on Tuesday. “It’s going to be a very challenging 12-24 months trying to mitigate this.”

Click to play video: 'AHS issues alert after confirmed measles case in Edmonton, St. Albert'

AHS issues alert after confirmed case of measles in Edmonton, St. Albert

According to PHAC, measles was eliminated in Canada in 1998 thanks to vaccination efforts, but occasional outbreaks from international travel do occur. However, the removal was “re-verified” in July of this year.

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PHAC urges Canadians traveling abroad to consult travel health advisories for information about measles and rubella outbreaks occurring in other countries.

“Measles anywhere is a threat everywhere, as the virus can spread rapidly to multiple communities and across international borders,” says the WHO.

Bolotin said public health reminders to parents about the importance of vaccination were “absolutely” important given the new report’s findings, particularly if their children missed appointments during the height of the pandemic.

He also stressed that the measles vaccine is “incredibly safe,” despite some concerns among swing groups, and has been used effectively for decades.

“I hope, despite the conversations that have been going on about COVID-19 (vaccines), that people trust this (measles) vaccine and trust the way their healthcare providers communicate with them.” , said.

Read more:

Measles cases rise 79% globally after COVID-19 hit childhood vaccination campaigns

Measles is a serious and highly contagious respiratory disease that can be spread by direct contact or through the air when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes. The virus can also be transmitted by touching contaminated surfaces.

Initial symptoms include high fever, pink discharge, cough, watery eyes, and small white spots inside the mouth. Several days after the first symptoms appear, a red rash appears on the face and body that lasts for about a week.

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Bolotin called measles vaccine coverage “the canary in the coal mine” for children’s health, because of how infectious the disease is. The infection period can start up to four days before symptoms appear, he said, and can last up to four days after symptoms disappear.

“When there is something that has gone wrong with child health, child vaccination, one of the first things that jumps out to tell us is measles outbreaks,” he said.

Despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine, thousands of young children around the world die from measles each year.

Last year, approximately nine million measles cases and 128,000 deaths were reported, according to the WHO. Health Canada says that more than 140,000 deaths occur on average each year, mostly children under the age of five.

— With archives from Reuters and The Canadian Press

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