Measles outbreak prompting vaccination program in the province of Quebec

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A widespread measles outbreak has convinced Quebec's Public Health Department to launch a vaccination program in schools across the province.
This year 750 cases of measles have been diagnosed in Quebec, the largest outbreak since the summer of 2007 -- when 100 people fell ill with the potentially deadly disease.
But doctors say a measles outbreak more than 20 years ago was far worse.
Pediatrician Richard Haber wouldn't want to have to go through it again.
"Most people have forgotten, in 1989 here in Quebec we had about 10,000 cases of measles. Measles is a highly, highly contagious virus," said the doctor who works at The Montreal Children's Hospital.
Letters sent to school boards outline the plan.
Beginning next week, students will receive notices about the chance to get an MMR shot at school.
"Talking about it being voluntary, being free, primarily they'll be looking at secondary students to be vaccinated followed by the elementary level students," said Lew Lewis of the English Montreal School Board.
The Director of Public Health Protection says the campaign is critical.
"It's not a money issue. We've got the vaccine, it's a good vaccine," said Dr. Horacio Arruda. "We want to prevent people from dying, We want to prevent people from being hospitalized from that disease."
While those 13 and under need parental permission, the Health Minister hopes hearing about the complications that measles can produce, such as pnemonia, encephalitis (swelling around the brain), blindness and death, will convince parents who have so far refused to vaccinate their children.
"When you have people who decided not to vaccinate their children at this moment, they have more chance to have the disease," said Yves Bolduc.
Teenagers aged 14 and over can decide for themselves if they want to be immunized.

Unusual finding
The outbreak in Quebec is concentrated in the Mauricie and the South Shore, but it has generated an unusual observation.
While receiving two doses of the measles vaccine was thought to be 99 percent effective, more than half of the 98 students at one high school who contracted measles had already received two doses of MMR.
They did note that children who received their first dose of the vaccine at 15 months of age were more likely to be immune than those who got their first shot when they were just 12 months old.
There's a possibility that antibodies provided by mothers are still active in 12-month-old infants, and those antibodies are destroying the vaccine before the child's immune system can come into effect.
Health officials are now analyzing the data to decide if the vaccination schedule for childen needs to be altered.

Vaccination decreased after falsified study
Vaccination rates against measles, mumps, rubella and other diseases dropped precipitously worldwide in the wake of a false study published in England's medical journal The Lancet in 1998.
The study claimed to prove that children who received the MMR vaccine were at greater risk of developing autism, however the science behind the study was completely fabricated.
The doctor who led the study, Andrew Wakefield, had been hired two years earlier to find evidence for a class-action lawsuit against vaccine manufacturers, and the 12 children in the study had either started showing signs of autism before receiving a vaccine, or had never developed autism at all.

In 2010 The Lancet retracted the paper, and Wakefield had his medical license revoked.