Apr 22, 2014

By Trevor Shewfelt, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

Im proud to be Canadian. My kids play hockey, and I kinda do too. I like winter, eventhough this one went on way too long. I love Maple syrup, beaver tails and I have been known to have a beer or two. But like all Canadians, I usually define my Canadian-ness by my lack of American-ness. I say things like: werebetter educated because 48.3 per cent of Canadians have a post-secondary degree, compared to 40.3 per cent in the U.S. Were fitter than Americans. 35.9% of American adults are obese but, in Canada, its only 24.2%. And Canadians live 3 years longer than Americans. It must be because of our great health care system, right?

Americans are beating us on one very important health care metric. Americans have mandatory immunization programs. We dont. That is why the USA, which has a population of over 310 million people, averages about 60 cases of measles per year, while British Columbia with a population of 4.6 million has about 400 cases of measles in its current outbreak. As a Canadian, Im ashamed. Why are we letting our kids get sick?

Vaccines in general are very inexpensive, are very safe and have already saved thousands, if not millions of lives. The headlines should scream, Diptheria reduced from 3000 cases per year to 1-5 cases per year. Vaccines are the modern medical miracles that have made these advances possible.

I know there is a vocal minority out there that thinks vaccines are the root of all evil. The reason these anti-vaccine groups thrive is because fear trumps logic. They have spread the false fear that vaccines cause everything from autism to diabetes to multiple sclerosis. Lets look at some of the common misconceptions about vaccines.

People say things like, Babies today get too many shots, or Multiple injections will overwhelm the babys immune system. New born babies come in contact with millions of germs shortly after birth and their immune systems can deal with them immediately. Why? Because babies are born with thousands of antibodies. If one or more shots are given to a baby, that antigen load is just a small part of what babies encounter every day. Multiple vaccines are safe to give at one time. The multiple vaccines only use a fraction of the immune system to generate the immune response. Babies can make over 1 billion antibodies, and could theoretically handle up to 10,000 shots at any one time. So all a multiple vaccine shot does is reduce the number of times the baby has to be poked. And back to vaccines somehow overwhelming the babys immune system. Vaccines do not harm the immune system but prime and train it to defend, rapidly against vaccine-preventable diseases before illness can occur. This is important because babies are one of the most susceptible groups to the severe consequences of many vaccine-preventable diseases.

Vaccines cause autism. It is unfortunate this rumor is still circulating. Lets look at what we know. One of the reasons this rumor started was timing. The beginning of regressive autism symptoms often happens at the same time as childhood vaccines are given. The one that often gets blamed is the MMR or measles, mumps and rubellas vaccine. But one doesnt cause the other. There have been many studies that refute the link of the MMR vaccine to autism. One of the most interesting observations has been the experiment many parents are performing on their own children. Because of the MMR vaccine scare, fewer children are getting the MMR vaccine. However, autism rates have increased even though fewer children have been vaccinated with the MMR vaccine. The most important flaw with the MMR vaccine scare, in my opinion, was the original premise was a fraud.

Back in 1998 there was a study published in the Lancet by Dr. AJ Wakefield and colleagues. They looked at 12 children that had lost acquired skills like language. These children ranged in age from 3 to 10 years and 11of the 12 were boys. These children could have had Autism Spectrum Disorder, depending on how that condition is defined. Of these 12 children, eight of them had developed autism like symptoms after the MMR vaccine as determined by the parents. So the controversy began. But the popular media seemed to ignore that the study was only a study of 12 children, not the 1000s of people that we usually like to see in a study. The celebrities who announced MMR causes autism seemed to ignore that since 1998 at least a dozen studies looked for a connection between MMR and autism and found none. In 2010 the original publisher, the Lancet, has actually retracted the original study. On February 2, 2010 the Lancet published a short retraction that said in part Following the judgment of the UK General Medical Councils Fitness to Practise Panel on Jan 28, 2010, it has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield et al are incorrectTherefore we fully retract this paper from the published record. The whole Wakefield study was retracted! The Lancet basically said the whole Wakefield study was a fraud.

Vaccines cause more harm than the disease they are preventing. Lets review what vaccines prevent. The number of mumps cases has dropped from 34,000 per year in the early 1950s to an average of 87 cases reported annually between 2000 and 2004. Symptomatic meningitis occurs in about 15% of mumps cases. Swollen testicles is the most common symptom of post-pubesent boys with mumps. Mumps can cause deafness. The last major epidemic of polio occurred in 1959 with nearly 2000 cases of paralytic polio. With effective immunization, Canada was certified polio-free in 1994. In the 1950s most people knew some child who was in an iron lung to breath for them. Now iron lungs are museum pieces and people have forgotten how devastating the disease was.

The current scare is with measles. Measles is incredibly contagious. Measles is so contagious that over 90% of susceptible people exposed to a child with measles will develop it. About 1 in 5 people with measles is hospitalized. Up to 3 in 1000 people with measles die. BC is already at about 400 cases of measles. How long until their first death? Lets look at the harm vaccines cause. Most people have no reaction to the vaccine at all. In someone gets a bad vaccine reaction, then fever, redness and tenderness where a shot was given are the most common post-vaccination reactions. Serious adverse effects are uncommon and vaccines are one of the most monitored tools in modern medicine. The most serious reaction to a vaccine is anaphylaxis, and it can be life threatening. But anaphylaxis only occurs in 2 patients per 1,000,000 immunizations given and the health care professional who gives the shot will have epinephrine on hand to treat it.

Its good to be Canadian. We won both golds in Olympic Hockey. The Stanley Cup Playoff are underway. The Western Canada Cup is almost here. Now lets just beat those @#!*% Americans at protecting our kids from preventable diseases. Go get your kid immunized today!

As always if you have any questions or concerns about these products, ask your pharmacist.

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.

We now have this and most other articles published in the Parkland Shopper on our Website. Please visit us at

99 Reasons its better to be a Canadian- MacLeans -

Manitoba Health Measles exposure site:

CBCs The Current Good discussion on Vaccines -

What would happen if we stopped Measles Vaccines

Immunization Info from BC Health -

Immunization Myths -

Immunization facts -

Immunization can you trust what you read on the internet -

Caring for Kids (Info from Canadian Paediatricians) -


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