VARIANCE feels it’s a good idea to thoroughly scrutinize and make parents aware of mass vaccination campaigns

For the last four years, a Toronto-based group has been advising parents about the risks and potential adverse reactions of vaccines.

Vaccinations Risk Information and Alternative Resource Group (also known as Variance) wa formed as a follow up to a successful 1984 effort by concerned parents to have the Immunization of School Pupils Act amended. The amendment made it possible to exempt children on the basis of conscience and religious belief.

Spokesperson Heather Stephen says the group is focusing its current attention in a second round anti-measles vaccination in Ontario.

“The WHO (World Health Organization) is aiming to eradicate measles by the year 2000,” she says. “The second does of measles (vaccination in Ontario) is kind of the beginning of what they intend on doing…Ontario is sort of a test market. All the other provinces and territories are supposed to follow suit.”

Stephen says the campaign raises concerns on a number of fronts. For one thing, the vaccine can lead to adverse reactions. “When you take the measles vaccine, you can get some of the same reactions or complications you would get it you had measles, (because) measles vaccine contains a live measles virus. The worst-case scenario is that you would experience encephalitis, swelling of the brain and maybe death.”

The lack of long-term studies about the effects of vaccines is another concern. She says English medical researcher Dr. A.J. Wakefield has linked the measles vaccine with Crohn’s Disease and irritable bowel syndrome, while anecdotal evidence has suggested a possible link with diabetes and leukaemia.

Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports say a number of Ontario students have gone into shock after getting the measles vaccine. It is said that 11 students in North York, nine in Peel Region and five in Peterborough experienced the reaction. Stephen says the sources indicate that medical authorities reported the children simply “fainted” from fear.

She says these developments should encourage parents to inform themselves.

“Although the government says it’s mandatory, every parents has the choice, based on conscience, of whether or not to have a child vaccinated against measles or anything else. Most people are not aware of that.”

She says Variance plans to compose a brief to the government because of rumours that exemptions from vaccination will be taken away. “We want to protect that…Every parent should know when he or she goes to the doctor with an infant, there is a choice.”

She adds it is also important to keep an eye on the international scene, because of reports from South America that tetanus vaccines have been found there with abortifacient properties.

Stephen says Variance offers a membership with twice-yearly newsletter, as well as an information packet for concerned parents. Either can be obtained by calling (416) 534-1477.