During CFI Canada’s monitoring of public health concerns such as anti-vaccination proponents, we often encounter pseudo-scientific claims and fears from people who either ignore or don’t understand the science behind vaccination and immunization.  However, we’ve lately also noticed an increase in the troubling incursion of religion in this area of public health and healthcare.

Study #3 Measles in Canada 2015

On February 6, 2015 CBC posted a report that Canada had seen a sixth case confirmed.  We have provided below a selection of media sources, commentary and information relating to media coverage.  A feature which stands out in the Allan Maki’s Globe and Mail article from 2014 is the following details:

In the Netherlands, the most recent run of measles began in the country’s designated Bible Belt, an area occupied by conservative Protestants who refuse to vaccinate their children. That belief allowed the disease to go on a rampage, infecting more than 2,000 people with at least one death connected to the outbreak.

In Southern Alberta, it was a student who spread the disease after a visit to the Netherlands. The importation resulted in 42 confirmed cases in southern Alberta before the outbreak was declared over. As for the Fraser Valley and its 353 cases, it began with two students at a Christian school in Chilliwack, B.C.

1.  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/measles-confirmed-in-6th-patient-in-toronto-1.2948899

2. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/tmp-pmv/notices-avis/notices-avis-eng.php?id=98

3. http://www.who.int/immunization/monitoring_surveillance/burden/vpd/surveillance_type/active/big_measlesreportedcases6months_PDF.pdf

4. http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/map-2014-measles-cases-in-Canada

5. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/measles-in-canada-why-this-infectious-diseases-is-spreading/article17866080/?page=all

6. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/im/vpd-mev/measles-rougeole-eng.php

7. http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/measles-outbreaks-in-canada-outsize-u-s-1.2605628

8. http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/

9.

CBC’s April 2014 story regarding measles is very instructive

It’s an inescapable reality: As long as measles is infecting children in other parts of the world, Canada is going to have occasional outbreaks. The same is true in the United States, but public health officials there typically have managed to more quickly extinguish spread of the virus when it comes from abroad.

….the largest outbreak the U.S. has experienced in nearly two decades occurred in an Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, N.Y., last year. Total cases: 58. Indeed most measles outbreaks south of the border are far smaller, coming in at under two dozen cases, and many times fewer than a handful.

…..But when there are more unvaccinated children — or adults — transmission can go on for weeks, as it has in the Fraser Valley outbreak. There spread has emanated from a religious school — kindergarten to Grade 12 — affiliated with a church that opposes vaccination.

Repeatedly in Canadian coverage of measles outbreaks, connections to religious schools and communities appears to be a common factor.

Study #2 Measles Outbreak in Texas – August 2013

In August of 2013, a measles outbreak in Fort Worth Texas centred on a “megachurch” and resulted in Texas’ Department of State Health Services issuing a health alert.  The Church, which had previously circulated anti-vaccination messages, ended up providing free vaccination clinics. 10 cases of measles are identified in this case.  Related media links and commentary:

http://m.dailykos.com/story/2013/08/26/1234055/-Anti-vaccine-megachurch-hit-with-measles-epidemic-now-offering-free-vaccinations?detail=email

http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/unfairpark/2013/08/theres_a_measles_outbreak_at_v.php

http://thescoopblog.dallasnews.com/2013/08/measles-case-in-tarrant-county-tracked-back-to-megachurch-beside-eagle-mountain-lake.html/

http://gawker.com/texas-measles-outbreak-traced-to-anti-vaccine-megachurc-1197363514

http://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=8&ved=0CEAQFjAH&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.usatoday.com%2Fstory%2Fnews%2Fnation%2F2013%2F08%2F23%2Ftexas-measles-outbreak%2F2693945%2F&ei=Q9_YVN6yEYuxsATHy4GwCA&usg=AFQjCNGKrv5eJtWAgyuadd9J-eNixdTopA&bvm=bv.85464276,d.cWc

http://www.npr.org/2013/09/01/217746942/texas-megachurch-at-center-of-measles-outbreak

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/health/article/Amid-measles-outbreaks-non-vaccination-movement-6063506.php

As recently as February 6, 2015, experts indicate that they expect a  measles outbreak in Texas ( http://www.click2houston.com/news/experts-say-texas-likely-to-see-measles-outbreak/31140662);  In this story, it is claimed that the vaccination rate in Texas is 92.7% but also reveals how many children are left vulnerable to life-threatening illness – 40,000.  With a 90% infection rate, the potential number of cases in Texas is 36,000.  With a mortality rate of 1 in 1000, the potential number of preventable infant deaths is 36.

Detailed information regarding measles in the US may be found here: http://pediatrics.about.com/od/measles/a/measles-outbreaks.htm including significant reference to an outbreak at Disneyland (California).  Noteworthy is the statistic reported that the US saw a record low number of cases in 2004 at only 37 cases.  A single visitor to the Texas megachurch in 2013 resulted in between 10 and 25 cases.

http://cw39.com/2015/02/06/measles-vaccinations-exemptions-increase-in-texas-as-national-outbreak-spreads/

 

Study # 1 Vaccinations and the Catholic Church

In the fall of 2014, the Chair of Toronto’s Catholic School Board issued statements  claiming that HPV vaccinations are a “moral issue”.  This reminded us of similar problems in Alberta….and also the Kenyan example of Catholic Church and physicians opposing tetanus vaccinations.
CFIC sent a letter to the chair of the Toronto Catholic District School Board with an offer to provide him and the board with education on this matter.   See our letter:  Toronto Catholic District School Board Letter Re HPV Dec 2014
Is it far fetched to be concerned that organized religions and pseudo-science purveyors may be vectors for public health risks? We’re gathering evidence to learn more.
In the meantime, Mr. Del Grande found time to send us the following reply:
Well the media did a great job in making the news rather than reporting it. 
I used two examples of issues where a moral lens needs to be used when dealing
with such topics.  I repeat, they were examples. There was no mention to open
anything up as the Star would suggest. But let's be clear you have your job to do
and I have mine which [is] to examine what we do in a faith guided morality.

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