Jul 25, 2012
Author: Otto Akkerman
Across North America, we are experiencing the worst whooping cough epidemic in 70 years. The Globe and Mail is reporting over 2,000 cases of whooping cough in 4 provinces (Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, and New Brunswick) and over 18,000 cases in the US. To put it in perspective, we typically see a few dozen cases nationally.
Whooping cough infection rates are cyclical, spiking every 2-5 years. This spike, however, is unprecedented in our generation. It’s most likely cause – the anti-vaccination movement.
As Andre Picard noted in his article on Monday, “Well-meaning parents are shunning vaccination in small but significant numbers because of imaginary fears largely
concocted by quacks and charlatans. In doing so, they are giving almost-forgotten diseases the ability to resurface and cause real harm.”
Picard’s assertion is supported by figures released recently the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US. They report that the incidence of parents refusing or delaying vaccinations for their children almost doubled from 2003 to 2008 (22% versus 39%).
Picard’s sentiment is widely echoed though the Twitter-verse.
The issue of the whooping cough (Pertussis ) epidemic is the most commonly Tweeted issue on chatter relating to vaccines, as of July 24. The most prevalent title: “Anti-Vaccine Movement Causes the Worst Whooping Cough Epidemic in 70 Years.”
See Environics’ Social Media Monitor for Twitter on Vaccines: http://vaccine.nexalive.com
Will the whooping cough outbreak be enough of a jolt to reverse the trend of parents avoiding vaccinations for their children to a point where we can eradicate a disease like Pertussis? Regrettably, the answer is likely ‘No’.
Parents who choose to expose their children to preventable, serious, diseases based on an unsubstantiated (and pretty much universally discredited) warning from a former Playboy model (Jenny McCarthy) with no medical background are not likely to change their attitudes and behaviour based on these facts. The jolt that is likely needed is to be effected personally, such as knowing someone or being someone with a child suffering from whooping cough. As large as the current epidemic is, it’s still not large enough to have this range of impact.