Editorial: Ounce of prevention


It’s discouraging to see civilizations stumble backwards after they have made progress on so many fronts.

One of those areas is in the use of vaccines, such as the one that prevents measles, mumps and rubella and has been in use since 1963.

As of Monday, Vancouver Coastal Health had reported 14 confirmed cases of measles in the Lower Mainland area. A number of those individuals have been identified as being in high-traffic exposure locations during their contagious phase, suggesting that many more people could be infected in coming weeks.

Last month, Clark County in Washington state declared a public health emergency due to the high number of measles cases in that area. In 2014, more than 400 cases resulted in a Fraser Valley community due to low immunization rates there.

While measles does not have the deadly punch or profile of the Ebola virus, for example, it can cause serious illness and death. According to the World Health Organization, some 110,000 people died from measles around the world in 2017, with most being children under the age of five. The WHO also states that about 85 per cent of children worldwide received a dose of vaccine as infants that year. Between the years 2000 and 2017, the measles vaccine is estimated to have prevented 21.1 million deaths.

For several decades, measles was a non-issue in North America due to widespread immunization, and many countries around the world had virtually eliminated the disease.

But ignorance and complacency have merged in recent years to reduce immunization rates, making children especially vulnerable to measles and other illnesses that are prevented by vaccines. It would be an unnecessary tragedy to see young children die in B.C. from a disease that can be kept at bay so easily and safely.

The measles vaccine is available through public health units and pharmacies. People should take the opportunity to ensure their family members — and therefore the wider community — are protected.

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