Letter to parents about vaccinations and Halton’s measles outbreak

Dear Parent or Caregiver,

As I write this there have been six reported cases of measles in Halton Region. These six people, in the time they were infected to before they realized they had measles, have also been in contact with hundreds of other people in our community. Unfortunately, measles is very contagious and the virus can survive for 2 hours in the air and on surfaces. This is especially scary for those who cannot rely on vaccinations for immunity to measles. I’m talking about infants under the age of one, and children and adults whose immune systems are far too weak due to other illnesses or cancer treatments. For these people, and pregnant women, measles can be especially dangerous. But generally speaking, especially for those of us who are healthy, we don’t worry too much about these illnesses because we haven’t experienced first-hand the types of outbreaks that occurred before routine vaccinations were introduced. However, the illnesses we get immunized against still happen unexpectedly and can spread quickly.

If you decided not to immunize your baby, or at least not to give your toddler the MMR vaccine, no doubt you were trying to choose the best option for your child given the information you had at the time. There is no judgement here. The decisions we have to make when we first become parents are so incredibly overwhelming, especially when it comes to our little one’s health. It can be downright paralyzing, especially with all sorts of information – reliable and otherwise – online. How do you know what to believe? All of us, as parents, try to make the best decisions for our children and ourselves with the best information we have at the time.

However, it is important to note that a lot has changed over the years related to vaccine safety and it’s possible the information you based your decision on may have changed, or may have been found faulty, or maybe your views may have even changed since then. If you were concerned about autism, or about the safety of vaccines, or about the number of vaccines we give our kids, please read this fact sheet now.

The good news today is that because of this measles outbreak we are seeing lots of parents choosing to vaccinate their children against measles – whether they originally opted out of the MMR vaccine at 12 months or just plain forgot to get the MMR booster around 4-6 years of age.

Concerned mother

The reality is that without vaccinations, these diseases return. This means that if you or your children have not been fully vaccinated against measles (i.e., two doses of the MMR vaccine), they are susceptible to catching measles – yes, right here in Halton.

With school starting in a couple of weeks, now is a good time to re-evaluate your decision if your children have not been vaccinated…and not because I’m suggesting you do. I just want to encourage you to do the research, but please remember to check the quality of your sources, talk to your health care provider, and if in doubt, give us a call at Halton Region. We can provide you with the most up to date facts and research to help you with your decision.

In the meantime, here are a few facts about the measles.

  • There is no treatment for measles.
  • It can take up to 21 days from exposure to the measles virus before the first symptoms appear
  • Measles can cause the following complications:
    • 1/10 children – ear infections or pneumonia
    • 1-2/1,000 children – encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain). 1/3 to 1/4 of those affected experience permanent brain damage and developmental delays.
    • 1-3/1,000 people will die

Yikes. I know that last statistic is scary. That’s not the intent. These are just the facts about measles.

I just want to say, thank you for reading this letter. I hope it has been helpful.

Now go and enjoy your cutie(s)!

Andrea

P.S. Remember to update the Health Department if you do choose to vaccinate your children – just show us your yellow card.

P.P.S.  Don’t forget to update your own vaccinations!  If you’re interested, read about the importance of vaccinations in my story of surviving meningitis.

For more information about vaccinations and the measles outbreak, or to share your experience, there are many ways you can talk to one of us directly:

  • Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
  • Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
  • Email us at haltonparents@halton.ca
  • Dial 311 or 905-825-6000 for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

About Andrea Scott RN

I’m a public health nurse with the HaltonParents team – you’ll find me blogging, tweeting and answering emails. I’ve been working for the Halton Region Health Department since 2006 and my focus has been on supporting parents with babies and little kids. I have two little ones myself, “Pumpkin” and “Monkey” who give me plenty to blog about! :)
This entry was posted in Babies, Parenting, Physical Health, Pregnancy, School-aged Children, Services, Toddlers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Letter to parents about vaccinations and Halton’s measles outbreak

  1. great blog. Tough decisions for parents, thank goodness there are supports.

  2. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wg-52mHIjhs&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Dwg-52mHIjhs

    Please watch this, it was national news. My son is 20 months, and he has had some vaccines, but he’s only getting the ones I got as a child. When I was born, only 10 vaccines were given before the age of 2. Now, depending if your. Child is “high risk” it’s any where from 36-38 shots before the age of 2. I find it a bit excessive to give a cold, flu or chicken pox vaccine. Pharmaceutical companies make so much money off our fear/need to protect our children, they don’t stop and check everything. No one knows any of the long term effects of these new vaccines.

    • JayNine says:

      I have to agree. However, I have a ‘compromised immune system’ basically, and I would suggest that anyone else that does, should seriously be considering getting vaccinated. (ie flu shot, phenomavax, etc) Obviously, this all comes with Public Health, WHO, and our own choice research; and consulting with your Doctors. My children are all vaccinated with the regular ones I was given as a child as well. No Extras! ;D

    • Andrea Scott says:

      Sorry for the slow reply, we’ve been busy with back to school stuff! Like many controversial issues, there is much conflicting information on the internet, and not all of it is from quality sources. Here’s a tip sheet that can help you decide if what you are reading or watching is accurate: http://immunize.ca/uploads/printed-material/imm_info_internet_2012_e.pdf However, if you are concerned, we recommended consulting with a health professional that you trust, such as your family physician.

    • Jen says:

      Chicken Pox Vaccine has been around for 17+ years {possibly longer I remember a sibling receiving, however the older children it was not around for} I hardly would qualify that as ‘new’

  3. JayNine says:

    As a(n independent) mother living in Halton, I sooo appreciate this post! Normally around this time of year, I go through the list of the vaccines the kids already have. This year I will be paying especially close to the MMR because I believe one of them has missed a ‘mmr booster’.
    If I might also make a suggestion. (Halton) Public Health in general, have a website (dont know it off hand) full of helpful information and the exact vaccinations our children should be given, each year, including vaccinations of many years past. I find that useful when doing my own cross-reference to the little yellow cards. Sign up for their emails or alerts because it seems each year there is something new for young and old! Plus, it’s a good reminder for the Flu Shot .. but thats a whole other debate 😉
    Thanks Again!

    • Andrea Scott says:

      Thanks for your comments. As for web info, we do have immunization information on the HaltonParents website – http://www.haltonparents.ca If you look under toddlers (or whatever age and stage your child is) you will find Immunization information under Preventing Illness. Also note that we are actually putting on the final touches to our newly-redesigned site and hope to be launching it soon. It will be more user friendly with easier to find information. As for signing up for alerts, we just finished piloting our new HaltonParents e-bulletin with targeted information based on the age of your baby/child. We will be rolling that out very soon too. So please stayed tuned for both!

  4. Also, it’s important to be aware that vaccinations in adults also may not be up to date. I worked in a hospital in the States for several years, and as part of my hiring process, I was required to take a serum blood test to make sure I had enough antibodies for all the required vaccinations…turned out I didn’t have enough measles antibodies and could have easily contracted it! Terrifying.

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