Emmanuel Bilodeau, whose family is at the centre of a measles outbreak in Canada, has revealed he didn’t vaccinate his children because of fears about autism.
In an interview with CBC, Mr Bilodeau said he refused to vaccinate his children because he distrusted science.
“We worried 10-12 years ago because there was a lot of debate around the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine,” Mr Bilodeau said.
“Doctors were coming out with research connecting the MMR vaccine with autism, so we were a little concerned.”
According to experts, there is no evidence linking the vaccine to autism.
Mr Bilodeau believes one of his children contracted measles during a family trip to Vietnam. Since then it has spread like wildfire at the schools his children attend.
While on the plane home, his 11-year-old son started experiencing symptoms of measles.
There have been at least eight cases affecting students, staff and parents across southern Vancouver.
Measles is a highly contagious respiratory infection and is spread through coughing or sneezing.
Symptoms don’t appear until 10 to 14 days after exposure and include fever, pain, cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes, sore throat, red blotchy skin rash, headache, sore throat and swollen lymph nodes.
WHY THE CONFUSION
According to an Australian Government fact sheet, in 1998, a research group in the UK led by Andrew Wakefield suggested some children who had received the MMR vaccine went on to develop bowel disease and developmental disorders such as autism.
The results of the research, which had included only 12 children, were published in a respected medical journal.
However, the authors retracted their claim there was any association between vaccination and autism in 2004.
PHILIPPINE FEARS GROW
The Philippine health secretary says 136 people, mostly children, have died of measles and 8400 others have been sickened in an outbreak blamed partly on recent vaccination fears.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Monday a massive immunisation drive that started last week in hard-hit Manila and four provincial regions might contain the outbreak by April.
President Rodrigo Duterte warned in a TV message on Friday of fatal complications and urged children to be immunised. The outbreak began in January.
A woman from New South Wales returned from the Philippines with the virus. Authorities have urged people travelling to Southeast Asia to make sure they are fully vaccinated before heading overseas.
Mr Duque said a government information drive is helping restore public trust in the Government’s immunisation program, which was marred in 2017 by an anti-dengue vaccine made by French drugmaker Sanofi that was blamed for the deaths of at least three children.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s capital recorded its first death from measles in a major outbreak, the health ministry said on Monday.
A 57-year-old woman died in hospital of complications from the highly infectious illness, health ministry spokeswoman Maryna Dadinova told AFP.
Eight people, including two children, have died of measles in Ukraine this year. There were 16 deaths nationwide in 2018.
Around 20,000 people in Ukraine have contracted the highly contagious viral disease since the start of the year.
Just 42 per cent of one-year-olds in the country had been vaccinated by the end of 2016, according to the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF.
Ukrainian authorities and international organisations blame the outbreak on a lengthy hiatus in immunisations.
In May 2018, an official with the National Medical Academy, Fedir Lapiy, said parents’ “reluctance to vaccinate their children comes from distrust of vaccines, distrust of doctors”.
Measles cases more than tripled across Europe in 2018, and Ukraine drove most of the surge.