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Monday, April 21, 2014

The Responsibility is Mutual

There was a time in the not-so distant past when diseases now considered to be vaccine-preventable in their outcomes killed tens of thousands of Canadian children. Until the Measles vaccine was introduced in 1969 maternal rubella represented the leading cause of blindness and deafness in children. Each and every year 50 to 75 children in Canada, died of the viral effects of Measles.

Now, millions of people are vaccinated in Canada annually, and a scant handful -- fewer than an admittedly unfortunate ten in number -- will end up as a result of the inoculation they have received with a permanently serious life-time injury. Most advanced countries of the world with this fact acknowledged, have set up a system of compensation for those so adversely affected, seeing it as their responsibility to aid those their admonition to submit to inoculation, have suffered as a result.

Most G8 countries recognize the potential for serious injury impacting on a minuscule number of people, and offer compensation. Canada and Russia do not, although the Province of Quebec alone does. In 1972 a five-year-old girl living in Quebec developed viral encephalitis and permanent disabilities post-measles vaccination. Although her father sued the province and its superior court found that compensation should be paid, the Supreme Court of Canada overruled them.

Still, Quebec set up its own no-fault compensation system in 1986 on a case-by-case basis for those few whom harm has struck resulting from a government-recommended vaccination. Research linked early versions of the DPT (Diphtheria, Pertussis (Whooping Cough), and Tetanus) vaccine to febrile seizures and frequent adverse reactions, just as the combined Measles, Mumps and Rubella is capable of causing some worrying symptoms in a very small percentage of those inoculated.

But compare that to the dangers to the aggregate of the population for whom Measles can constitute a serious health threat: Though its symptoms are mild, the virus can produce ear infections or pneumonia in one of every ten children; it can cause an infection of the brain in one of every 1,000 children which may cause permanent brain damage; Measles causes death in one of about three thousand cases, according to the Ontario Ministry of Health.
"We are actually telling people and it is becoming more explicit, that you are not only vaccinating to protect yourself but to protect others, so if you get hurt the state should provide compensation."
"Despite the great benefits from a universally immunized population, side-effects from vaccines have been observed and have the potential to cause serious injuries and permanent harm."
"Infrequently, injuries can be caused by a particularly 'hot' or immunologically reactive batch of vaccine but more often, injuries are related to idiosyncratic and therefore unpredictable immune responses to the immunization, or an underlying predisposition for injury."
Dr. Kumanan Wilson, research chair, public health policy, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
The United States has a table of vaccine-related injuries it compensates for, as part of its National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986. An article on vaccine safety on the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention website states: "Vaccines are the best defence we have against infectious diseases. However, no vaccine is 100% safe or effective. Differences in the way individual immune systems react to a vaccine account for rare occasions when people are not protected following immunization or when they experience side effects."

One in 40,000 risk developing thrombocytopenia; low platelet blood count following the MMR vaccine; one in a million risk contracting Guillain-Barre syndrome, and in 2012 the number of people who died from Measles in the developing world stood at 122,000. The Ontario Ministry of Health website points out who should be exempt from the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) inoculation:
The following children and adults should not have MMR vaccine :
  • anyone who is ill with a fever or infection worse than a cold;
  • anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction (called anaphylaxis) to a prior dose of this vaccine;
  • anyone taking medication that lowers the body's ability to fight infections;
  • pregnant women :   If a woman gets the MMR vaccine and then discovers she is pregnant, she should call her doctor. However, the risk of damage to the fetus in this type of situation is small. Also women of childbearing age should be advised to avoid pregnancy for 1 month following immunization with MMR vaccine;
  • anyone who is allergic to an antibiotic called neomycin;
  • anyone who received a gamma globulin shot within the past three to 12 months, (depending on the dose and method of administration).
It appears long-incumbent on the Canadian government to recognize its responsibility to those few who have met misfortune in health outcomes as a result of inoculation against Measles; those who trustingly submit to having their young children vaccinated as they are encouraged to do through best-public-health practises, and who sustain the unthinkable; serious chronic health conditions instead of protection against a viral disease that has its own serious potential threats.

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