Peter Salk gets a polio shot from his father in the spring of 1953, as his mother looks on. Jonas Salk assured the public that he’d vaccinated his own family first, adding, “I will be personally responsible for the vaccine.” (March of Dimes)

It’s time to stop being nice to anti-vaxxers

Mandatory vaccinations provide a simple solution to preventable illness

It really is time to stop being nice about stupidity.

In doing our research on the issue of vaccinations and searching for a reason that vaccination rates have continued to decline in B.C., we came across variations of the same argument.

It’s not productive, we were told, to be judgmental about those parents who refuse to immunize their child. Berating parents for not vaccinating their children might alienate them, we were told.

We might hurt their feelings and they could withdraw, causing us to lose the opportunity to explain that protecting children from serious, sometimes life-threatening, diseases is a good thing.

Good grief.

Sooke physician Dr. Herrling Kristie told us that not a week goes by that someone arrives in her office expressing doubts about getting their child vaccinated.

She told us how her clinic is concerned that non-vaccinated patients may pose a risk to babies and those who cannot be vaccinated because of medical reasons and how she has had to ask the parents of unvaccinated children to schedule their appointments late in the day so as to avoid the potential of infecting others.

This is happening at the same time as the World Health Organization recent announcement that vaccine hesitancy — the growing resistance to widely available lifesaving vaccines — is one of the top 10 health threats in the world for 2019. That assertion is borne out by the regular, serious outbreaks of preventable diseases like measles in B.C. and around the world.

It isn’t surprising, really, as anti-vaccine propaganda has vastly outpaced accurate public health information. The anti-vaxxers, as they are colloquially known, are as relentless as they are misguided and a society that has become increasingly suspicious of science and facts has provided fertile ground for their dangerous misinformation.

But let’s get serious.

The same human stupidity was on display long before the internet when the smallpox vaccine was developed in the early 1800s and again when a vaccine for polio put an end to that horrid disease in Canada.

During those times governments still had the courage to act.

They recognized that, sometimes, people are just not very bright and are willing to risk their children’s lives rather than accept the proven science behind vaccines.

They reacted to the situation by making vaccines mandatory, despite the howls of the anti-vax mobs of the time. (These groups had titles like the Anti-Compulsory Vaccination League back then, but were no less misguided.)

The result is that smallpox has been eradicated and that my granddaughter will never know the pain of losing a friend to polio.

It’s time to revisit that approach and stop worrying about hurting the feelings of the anti-vaxxers and those who have bought into their lies.

•••

Tim Collins is a Sooke News Mirror reporter.

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