Thursday, 23 November 2017 12:08

AHS south zone CFO: immunization still the best defence

Written by  Jamie Rieger
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Lena Derie-Gillespie Lena Derie-Gillespie

Preventive medicine, such as immunization,  may keep the diseases away, but it could also keep legitimate information from getting out to the public, causing people to potentially make poor choices about their health care.

As diseases get eradicated through vaccination programs, they will slip away from the public eye. As a result, the importance of continuing the vaccinations becomes less of a priority, at least in the eyes of some.
"This is an interesting topic that gets people thinking and that is a good thing. Too many people do not consider this until something happens," said Dr. Lena Derie-Gillespie, chief medical officer of health for Alberta Health Services' south zone. "The better job we do of prevention, the less people are aware of the importance of vaccinations."
And because diseases such as polio and diphtheria have been virtually eliminated in Canada, some don't recognize the need to vaccinate their family members against these potentially harmful and life-changing illnesses. Call it the 'out of sight, out of mind' mentality.
"The diseases did no just go away by themselves. Immunization is one of the best examples of preventative care. Would you rather be immunized or be treated for one of these diseases," she said.
With the powerful tool of the Internet, people often access information that is inaccurate and misleading, including a study linking vaccinations to autism; a study that has since been discredited.
"There is discredited research out there and people need to get their information from legitimate sources," said Derie-Gillespie. "Lots of people come to me with questions about this. My job is to keep people healthy. Nobody pays me more money because more people are getting vaccinated. I believe in it, believe in the science, and have seen it firsthand, from whooping cough to children going deaf from the measles."
Earlier this month, a 10-year-old Edmonton boy was diagnosed with diphtheria, despite his mother's claims that her son was up-to-date with his vaccinations. Parents of students who may have been exposed were all directly by Alberta Health Services.
Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection that affects the throat, nose, and skin and can cause severe breathing problems. In extreme cases, it can cause heart failure, paralysis, or death. Approximately 10 percent of diphtheria patients die from the illness. It is easily spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes and also through direct contact with an infected person. According to World Health Organization immunization information that was updated in July, 2017, global vaccinations for diseases such as cervical cancer, diphtheria, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), pneumonia, polio, rotavirus diarrhea, rubella, and tetanus, have stalled at 86 percent.
WHO also says that immunizations avert an estimated two to three million deaths each year, but a further 1.5 million deaths could be avoided through vaccination coverage.
"We want people to have legitimate Alberta information," she said. "People have lots of questions, so let's address it. If you have questions, ask, but ask the right person, a source with legitimate information."
Derie-Gillespie encourages people who have questions to talk with their family physician or visit, which addresses many common concerns and questions about immunizations.

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