Opinion: Welcoming illness back

Choosing not to vaccinate has implications that extend beyond any one community, religious or not.

It didn’t take long for the furor to erupt after it was learned the source of the latest measles outbreak in Chilliwack was a local Christian private school.

The school – and the church that supports it – has been in the spotlight before over its aversion to vaccinations. Past outbreaks of measles, mumps and whooping cough have all been tied to the community. And that association once again drew an immediate and stinging rebuke from people across the country.

And rightly so.

Religious freedom is a fundamental part of our Canadian identity. But that freedom should not excuse parents from denying their children the simple tools that can protect them from life-threatening, or life-altering diseases.

More so, choosing not to vaccinate has implications that extend beyond one community. It leaves others – particularly children too young for vaccination – vulnerable to a disease they might otherwise escape.

But while it was a particular religious community that has drawn the most fire over the outbreak, it cannot be overlooked that others are also guilty.

Fraser Health estimates the percentage of the population in the Chilliwack area with adequate immunization is around 70 per cent. That leaves a significant chunk of the population either choosing not to vaccinate, or failing to ensure their inoculations are up-to-date.

There are no good reasons for either.

Fears that vaccinations carry some harm have long been exposed for what they are: paranoia cloaked in junk science.

The bigger concern is complacency. We’ve come to expect that the childhood diseases that were once so common have disappeared. What we forget is their absence is due to a stringent vaccination regime. By failing to maintain that regime we are welcoming back illnesses that we have fought long and hard to protect our families from.

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