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CMA to take on “alternate universe of facts” hindering vaccination

The Canadian Medical Association is preparing to take a high-profile stance in support of strategies to improve immunization rates.

At its May meeting, the CMA Board of Directors endorsed several resolutions that will go to the association’s annual General Council meeting in August, including calling for proof that all children attending child care or school have received age-appropriate immunizations except where medically contraindicated.

The board also endorsed development of a multi-year business plan to address challenges to immunization, including outlining the physician role. Specific objectives and deliverables will be brought to the October 2015 board meeting.

“Physicians have a critical role to play in vaccination,” said CMA President Chris Simpson. “It’s an important issue to me because it’s difficult … to understand why a demographic is ignoring medical advice,” he said, commenting on the anti-vaccination movement and its reliance on “an alternate universe of facts”.

The CMA has a long-standing record backing immunization initiatives, based on support for the recommendations of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI). Since 2005, the association has provided resources to physician offices to encourage vaccination and is on record as supporting the development of a national immunization strategy.

Simpson notes that immunization in Canada is a complex issue and that, with few exceptions, the provinces consistently fall below national targets for vaccine coverage for six preventable diseases: invasive meningococcal disease, invasive pneumococcal disease, varicella, pertussis, influenza and rubella. Simpson said this is even true of the two – Ontario and New Brunswick – where childhood vaccination is mandatory.

As well as calling for mandatory proof of vaccination for children, the resolutions to be discussed in August deal with strategies focusing on parents who are vaccine-hesitant, encouraging the development of vaccine registries and promoting the critical role physicians have in immunization.

“While immunization is an area that impacts the practice of a majority of CMA members, both family practitioners and specialists, the medical community has not been very vocal in the current conversations,” the CMA background paper on the subject notes. “This is a vacuum that CMA could fill by playing a major role in bringing together the expertise to support its members, work(ing) to improve immunization rates and ultimately improve population health.”

The CMA is also working with the Canadian Federation of Medical Students to develop a resolution for General Council on standardization of medical school vaccination protocols across the country.

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