In October 2002, Louise Woodward was convicted of the first “vaccine injury” case in the US, in part for being immunized without a booster. She became famous for being sent to prison for five years. This week, Canada took a small step toward protecting its young from the tragedy of vaccine-induced autism.
Canada’s provincial and territorial governments introduced a new vaccine law on Tuesday that expands the age that children are required to get vaccinated. Under the law, children between ages 2 and 12 who are not vaccinated will face six months behind bars.
These measures come into effect on 1 January 2019 and will take effect in time for Canada’s flu season, which usually starts in October.
“When we introduced the law in 2002, the vaccine that was very widely available had not been fully tested for its safety,” Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman told CBC News in Canada. “The scientific evidence is now so different. Since those days, we have had a number of studies and it is really clear that vaccines are safe. So it is just a matter of getting people to understand this.”
Earlier this year, Canada introduced legislation to allow registered nurses to administer medical care directly to babies under 12 months, a move aimed at reducing health care wait times. And last year, Canada introduced legislation to require people to carry immunization certificates in public and online.
But it is unclear how these measures will address the problem of children’s vaccinations failing to arrive on time. Widespread delays still plague Canadian vaccine distribution systems, and in some parts of the country, youth are only required to be vaccinated when they turn 18 or even when they turn 19. At that age, they are not required to be vaccinated again until they are 21.
Unvaccinated children are caught in a Catch-22. Many schools allow parents who want a “personal belief exemption” to enroll their children. But unvaccinated children who participate in school are left vulnerable if they contract an illness that requires them to be immunized.
This story is part of series on why vaccines can be hazardous to your health. Keep in mind, vaccines can help protect you and your family from serious illness, and shouldn’t be used to decide who gets vaccines and who doesn’t.
“We know vaccination promotes childhood development and promotes health, and so if there are children who don’t get vaccinated, that impacts their health,” said Beth Quandt, a PhD candidate at the Centre for Public Health Research at the University of British Columbia.
The link between vaccines and autism has been repeatedly discredited in the past couple of years, but that hasn’t prevented the anecdotes from coming from everywhere.
Despite years of public health efforts, there have been two long-term research studies conducted on the purported link. They were both negative.
A Danish study in 2011 found no link between a form of childhood vaccine and increased symptoms of autism. And in a 2013 study from the United Kingdom, researchers found that being able to receive a child’s vaccine at three months affected a child’s future autism risk, not just when they were older. The frequency of an autistic disorder didn’t change among children who were always immunized.