Get the vax 

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My father had polio. Born in the '30s, it wasn't all that uncommon. It was serious, but he managed to beat it, mostly—he never played sports, his legs were too weak for that, but, hey, he could still walk. Not everyone was so lucky.

The polio vaccine was/is a freaking miracle. In 1955, some 35,000 kids in the U.S. were struck with the disease; by 1961 that number was 161. Over 350,000 people contracted polio around the world in 1988, but a UN vaccination program pared that down to just 22 cases by 2017.

Vaccines work, even though no vaccine is 100-per-cent effective. That's because they create something called "herd immunity," ensuring that enough people are protected against the disease that cases are extremely rare and don't spread. That in turn helps protect the small number of people out there who can't be vaccinated because of various medical conditions, are vulnerable because their protection wore off, or—more common today—weren't vaccinated by their parents.

It's amazing to think that I live in a day and age where we can easily and cheaply vaccinate against polio, mumps, measles, rubella, chicken pox, hepatitis, human papillomavirus, the mostly deadly strains of the flu, and more. Some of the most promising cancer treatments are based on vaccines, and we're on our way to a potential vaccine for AIDS as well.

It's even more amazing to live in a day and age where parents choose not to vaccinate their children against these painful, potentially crippling and occasionally lethal diseases because they read something on Facebook and believe the Canadian Medical Association and World Health Organization are somehow in cahoots with Big Vaccine.

Usually columnists would take a few paragraphs to explain the other side's position, but I'm not going to do that because A) I'm not a doctor and B) neither is anyone on the other side. The facts are not really open to opinion and there are no valid counterpoints anyone should accept. Any risks or side-effects of vaccination—and nobody has ever pretended that these don't exist—are miniscule compared to the risks of these diseases.

There's no conspiracy. There's no real profit motive because there are no real patents—vaccines are just dead samples of real diseases that your white bloods cells get to measure up in case the real thing ever shows up.

"I was never vaccinated and I'm fine," doesn't mean you're right, it only means you were protected by herd immunity. You're welcome.

And yet now we're dealing with a mini outbreak of measles on the West Coast, with cases reported from southern California to Whistler. Kids who can't be vaccinated are at serious risk, as well as the growing number of kids who weren't vaccinated through no fault of their own.

This inevitable outbreak, blamed on anti-vaxxers, has resulted in a petition to make vaccination mandatory for all kids attending B.C. public schools.

(This week, B.C. health minister Adrian Dix says he hopes to have a school imminization registry in place by September.)

It also raises larger questions about the duty of care that parents owe children, regardless of their personal beliefs. I know they think they're doing the right thing (over the strenuous objections of the entire medical profession), but an infant can't exactly make their own mind up on this. And it's the government's job to advocate on behalf of children.

We're already in a situation where parents are being held legally accountable for failing to seek medical attention for their children, whether it's denying them a life-saving blood transfusion or an actual cure for meningitis. At some point that liability will extend to vaccinations.

Parents don't own their children after all, we are merely caregivers—and state standards of care supersede our parental rights. There's a long list of things parents can't do to children, as well as things we must provide for them—including the necessities of life (e.g. vaccinations). Failing to vaccinate is failing to act in a child's best interests, as the effects of various diseases are well-documented and the benefits of vaccines proven beyond a shadow of doubt.

We need our herd immunity back. If forcing parents to vaccinate their children so they can attend school makes that happen, then that's what we should do.

I write this knowing full well that there are people in Whistler who won't like it, or me, even as one of us suffers with a case of the measles—a disease that had almost disappeared, and can blind, maim and kill. Instead of writing angry letters to the Pique, I suggest you try to get just one Royal College-certified doctor on your side first. I don't think you'll succeed.

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