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Group to tackle vaccination misinformation

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The Minister of Health, Kim Wilson, at a press conference about the importance of vaccinations today (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Parents were urged to find out the facts when the health minister called on them to ensure their families were vaccinated today.

Kim Wilson said misinformation and hearsay meant people had become resistant to life-saving preventive treatment.

The Department of Health is trying to address concerns in the community and has launched a working group to tackle “vaccine hesitancy”.

Ms Wilson said: “While most people are aware of the benefits of vaccination and the prevention of vaccine-preventable diseases, many have questioned the value, and this is based on misinformation and misconceptions, inaccurate published reports, non-scientific social media posts and all sorts of anti-vaccination stories.

“Choosing not to vaccinate against preventable diseases has resulted in a return of diseases we thought the world would no longer have to fear, such as Polio, diphtheria and the measles in particular — all an increasing threat.

“If Bermuda is to remain safe from serious illnesses, everyone must get the facts about vaccine safety and the need to protect themselves, their family and the community against those diseases.”

She said that included early immunisation of infants and completing the schedule of vaccinations up to adulthood.

Ms Wilson explained that the risk of having a significant side effect from a childhood or travel immunisation was “exceedingly small” but said that vaccines prevented between two million and three million deaths globally every year.

She added: “We are in the midst of flu season and there is a rise in numbers and in the severity of flu cases recorded on the island.

“I cannot stress enough how important it is to the public to protect themselves from the flu with vaccination, especially children, the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions.

“These persons are strongly advised to seek medical attention early if they have any flu-like symptoms.” The minister said signs were usually fever — a temperature of 100.4F — headaches, chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches or feeling very unwell and tired.

She advised anyone with symptoms to remain at home and rest until at least 24 hours after the fever has passed.

Ms Wilson said: “Bermuda is also at risk for the return of measles, due to the current outbreaks in nearby regions, particularly in North America and Europe.

“I strongly encourage people who choose not to vaccinate to protect themselves or their children from preventable diseases to find reliable, scientifically sound information and to distinguish fact from fiction.

“The ministry is concerned about the influence of non-scientific information and hearsay, which causes some to resist the idea of vaccination. We refer to this as vaccine hesitancy.

“To this end the Department of Health is working with its stakeholders in a collaborative effort to address vaccine hesitancy in our community.” She explained that a working group was established and further details would be made available during vaccination week in April.

Ms Wilson added: “By skipping vaccinations, you are endangering your own life and the lives of others.

“By getting vaccinated, you are protecting yourself, you are also protecting your family, friends, colleagues and the larger community.

“I feel strongly that if we all choose to get vaccinated against vaccine-preventable diseases we will protect ourselves and our community from diseases that we should no longer have to be worrying about.”