Canada's top health professional says “campaigns that target parents on social media and the internet” are planting “seeds of doubt” about vaccines, and she's worried serious diseases are making a comeback.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said in a statement Tuesday that she was heartbroken to see Canadian parents talking to media about losing their children to measles, a vaccine-preventable disease.

“In an era where, thanks to the success of vaccines, we are no longer familiar with these dangerous illnesses, some parents have come to fear the prevention more than the disease,” said Tam, who is a physician with expertise in immunization.

“Seeds of doubt are often planted by misleading, or worse, entirely false information being spread in campaigns that target parents on social media and the internet. It is no wonder some parents are confused and concerned.”

So-called anti-vaxxers use social media to spread false information, with one popular claim being that vaccines cause autism. The proported link between the two is based on a fraudulent study that has since been withdrawn, and has also been debunked through scientific research.

Measles was declared eradicated in 1998 in Canada, but is starting to appear again. The disease can lead to permanent disabilities like blindness or brain damage, encephalitis that can cause seizures and in some cases death.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said in a March 8 monitoring report that 19 cases of measles have been reported nationwide so far this year, largely in British Columbia.

When the World Health Organization released its list of "10 threats to global health" in January, "vaccine hesitancy" made the list.

Handout photo of Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer. Health Canada Photo

"Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective ways of avoiding disease: it currently prevents two to three million deaths a year, and a further 1.5 million could be avoided if global coverage of vaccinations improved," it wrote.

Tam said she was “very concerned” to see vaccine-preventable diseases “making a comeback in Canada” and vowed to work with partners in the months ahead “to continue to address the misinformation around vaccines.”

She called on healthcare providers “to take the time to answer the questions of concerned parents.”

She also urged parents and guardians to turn to “reliable sources of information” such as Immunize Canada, the Canadian Paediatric Society and her own agency.

Let them all live together in a nice secluded valley with high walls around it.

Public health officials seem to be missing some important points around the question of "vaccine hesitancy." It's not that anti-vaxxer parents mistrust the science around vaccination, though some still do even after the refutation of that fraudulent study linking vaccines with autism, it's that they don't trust governments and big pharmaceutical companies to properly implement immunization programmes. They hear about situations where thimerosal (a mercury preservative) has been included in some Canadian vaccines even after other jurisdictions make the switch to thimerosal-free preparations or hear about the history of Dr. Nancy Olivieri dealings with Apotex Pharmaceuticals.

Anti-vaxxers are not stupid people but they are often treated as such. We live at a time when institutions and authorities are not trusted, often with some justification. While public health authorities may not be able to address all anti-vaxxer concerns, they owe it to society at large and to the many caring, loving parents on both sides of the debate to listen rather than lecture and to make efforts, whenever possible, to address their concerns.

OK and in the meantime let them all go live in a nice secluded valley with high walls around it so their precious irresponsible "hesitancy" doesn't result in epidemics of the sort that used to in pre-vaccination days kill hundreds of thousands. Unless of course documented history is just more fake news. I'm getting really fucking tired of being told to try and understand and accommodate the views and desires of medievalist idiots.

Oh for sure, it's so useful to call people names and isolate them. Real life is not so cut-and-dry. While vaccines for smallpox and polio were highly effective, almost miraculous, does everyone you know get the flu shot each year? Are you going to seclude them in your valley too? What about the old shingles vaccine Zostavax? Or look up the Health Canada's statement on the oral vaccine, Dukoral, It came recommended to me by a medical travel clinic.

So let's try conversation instead and here's a place to start with anti-vaxxers ... a brief article from the CMAJ that gives the history of The Lancet "study" linking autism and vaccination, I've talked to anti-vaxxers calmly and we continue to talk. If you feel so strongly, why don't you make the effort to give this a try too?

In February 1998, Dr. Andrew Wakefield was the lead of thirteen (13) authors of an early report that indicated a possible link between autism and the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. The authors were immediately and roundly criticized/trounced so that 10 of the authors retracted their work. Dr. Wakefield opted to take the fall and was stripped of his medical license in 2010 for ethical violations.

Carl Meyer, have you investigated Wakefield's status as a whistleblower or are you simply relaying common belief?

Like any faction, "anti-vaxxers" run the gamut from intelligent to ignorant, from rational to emotionally crippled. Those fearing autism are both rational but misguided and need to research the latest scientific findings on the causes of autism. Progress IS being made on causes - which it is hoped will offer preventions and successful inteventions. There is also a great deal of research on the entire field of "vaccinations"/immune systems, including things that won't look like the current vaccination regimes.

One of the challenges science - and humanity - faces is that these kinds of basic research have been systematically defunded by agencies that are supposed to support "public good" endeavors - in favour of allowing the for-profit sector to cherry pick R & D in the areas most likely to produce major returns. This plays well to the market myth that the profit takers are more "efficient". Depending on how you define efficiency big pharma may well be able to mobilise resources to move quickly - but it is always bent in the effort to maximise profits by plucking the low hanging fruit. Real ground breaking research and innovation is relegated to the under-funded not-for-profit sector. This is one of the most damaging aspects of declining public participation in public good investments and it has real life, potentially catastrophic consequences.

Excellent point! Thank you.

Well said Dana. Fear is so rampart in our culture as told by the news, to keep us safe as we once believed. Like my father would say when he strapped us.. this hurts me more than you. Conversation is needed as we have more proof of the lies and are learning to discern control in the form of being 'good for us.' The 10% os us that feel the truth and live within the high walls of our society are doing our best to wake us all up, like the 'Emperor with no clothes fable'. Truth always rises to the surface just like cream on milk, real milk. So much of our information has been processed just like milk, for our own good, we are told. Are all the hormones they put in milk to force the cow to keep giving more and more, good for us, or good for those who make money with chemicals. These are the deeper issues that need to addressed and they include how vacinnes are made. We want the chemical formula and money policies to be transparent. Please do some real research on Dr Wakefield and the many others who have been killed for speaking for the truth. Public Health officials are doing there best to keep their job, thus We the people do not trust them due to the history they have left.

My father who was born in the 1920s saw firsthand the death and disability unleashed in children and others prior to widespread vaccination. When he became a doctor he was a tireless advocate for vaccination and I recall him being angry when the WHO announced that smallpox had been eradicated. He said "these diseases can never be eradicated and to say so will lull people into complacency and then there will be a horrible price to pay." I'm almost glad he's not alive to see this lunacy. I can only imagine what he'd say to an anti-vaxer patient. Probably to stop being so stupid and get vaccinated so they can fight the perceived bias of big pharma in cost and sometimes unnecessary promotion of some drugs. And I get the anti-vaxers suspicion of the intents of big pharma when it comes to a number of their drugs. But for the basic MMR vaccine, it is not worth jeapordizing the health of all children. Stop conflating two issues.

I love the National Observer and it’s stand for truth in journalism, it’s willingness to address and expose conflict of interest in our government and its policies. This, I am confused by this one-sided article that is just parroting what every other news outlet is saying. Perhaps it would be worth exploring why well-educated people are becoming resistant to either all vaccines, or merely the current vaccination schedule. Instead of just providing the same hype as all the mainstream news outlets, please apply your excellent investigative journalism to this subject. I would really appreciate some investigation into the science behind the current vaccination safety and schedule. What about the conflict of interest in the studies used to declare that vaccines are safe and effective? Did you know vaccines have never been tested against inert placebo? There is no double blind randomized placebo controlled studies for vaccines, which is required for every other pharmaceutical product. Nor are the studies long-term, some do not examine potential side effects after more than 4 days! The same companies that manufacture these vaccines are the companies that lied to us about opioids being safe and non-addictive, and have paid out billions in fines and court cases due to their fraud and deceit with numerous other drugs. If vaccines are so safe, why has the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) paid out over $4 billion since 1988 to those who have been injured or killed from vaccines? The HHS received a federal mandate to continue to study vaccine safety but has admitted that they have not fulfilled this mandate for over 30 years. Health Canada seems to rely on a lot of the decisions of the US. Vaccine manufacturers have NO LIABILITY: since the passing of the vaccine injury compensation act (in the US), drug manufacturers have been shielded from lawsuits by customers injured by their vaccines. This significantly increases the value of vaccines because there is no cost for legal defense or settlements like the 4.85 billion settlement against MERCK for its drug VIOXX. Even if legal action can be taken in Canada (and I don’t know if it can) the profits made from this immunity in the US is astronomical!

There is a ton of hype about the measles. Did you know that many individuals who got the measles were fully vaccinated, and that vaccinated individuals shed the measles virus for quite some time after receiving the vaccination? Those who got wild measles received lifelong immunity, but the immunity from the measles vaccine is short term. Giving the three shots together (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) has been shown to be potentially more harmful than giving these vaccines separately, yet the option to give them separately was removed. I believe some countries, such as Japan, have gone back to the individual vaccines. There are numerous other vaccines, many are not against life threatening diseases. The chicken pox vaccine has caused an increase in the occurrence of shingles, a disease far far worse than chicken pox. Has anyone looked at the cumulative safety of the vaccine schedule, or the safety of multiple vaccines at one time? What about giving vaccines to a child whose immune system is already weak? What about the stories of immediate regression after a vaccine? Vaccines contain aluminum, a known neurotoxin, which has been linked to autism.
and is particularly toxic to the developing brain of an infant.
What about the mercury in the flu shot? It was removed from most other vaccines due to a concern about its safety, yet now we give it to pregnant women. The flu shot is at best only 30% effective, and Canadian research indicates the repeated vaccination from year to year actually decreases the effectiveness of the flu shot.

A pilot study was recently released looking at health outcomes between three groups of people: unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, and fully vaccinated. The results are very interesting. The health outcomes for the fully vaccinated group were dramatically worse in terms of allergies, asthma, and neurodevelopmental disorders, and other diseases/conditions. Instead of parroting the hype of all the mainstream news outlets, please apply your excellent investigative journalism to this subject. Please actually investigate this issue and push for the safety study of vaccinated versus unvaccinated. That would settle the debate once and for all.

On this complicated issue, some good investigative journalism might indeed go a long way.

I entirely agree, Cindy. I came to the National Observer hoping to find at least one media outlet with the courage to do some real investigative reporting, and provide insights from all perspectives. Instead I find the same dogma propagated by other news outlets without any critical thinking here. Won't be spending much more time on this site.