Thank you for the timely article on vaccines (“The real vaccine scandal,” Society, Feb. 23). I wonder if there would be higher compliance with vaccination programs if the monetary costs to each person by way of taxes were added up and reported, assuming rates of preventable diseases rose to pre-vaccination levels. Your article cites 300,000 to 400,000 measles cases each year half a century ago, with 5,000 hospitalizations and many cases of blindness and deafness. The costs to the health care system would be enormous, and no one can put a price tag on the death of a child. Now add in the cost of adults getting mumps, chicken pox, polio, etc., or having to miss work to care for children with one of these preventable diseases, and you get a very expensive picture. The risk, then, becomes more comprehensive and might tip the scales in favour of vaccinations for some who seem unconcerned about serious physical complications or death. If even that weren’t enough to convince ardent anti-vaxxers, then perhaps politicians could legislate mandatory vaccinations for children attending public schools, with very few exceptions.
E.I. Kroeker, Winnipeg
Your article on Canada’s vaccination programs blames governments and parents for the so-called vaccine scandal, but it omits one major group: the health professionals who deny that vaccines, like all drugs, have important side effects for a small minority of people. This minority seems to be about one per cent of the total population and is well within the bounds of a scientifically valid study. It means that a town of 10,000 with a fully immunized population would have 100 people directly affected, with their families and close friends indirectly affected. Yet you duck this issue entirely. There is no doubt that vaccines prevent serious health problems and even save lives for the vast majority of people (I’ve assumed 99 per cent). But the side effects on the remaining one per cent need to be acknowledged and discussed, and peoples’ concerns about this issue taken seriously.
Howard A. Smith, Hartington, Ont.
I feel some of the blame for the “anti-vaxxers” movement lies with an overzealous flu-shot campaign over the past several years and, in particular, since the SARS outbreak of 2003. Flu shots provide limited protection against highly unpredictable flu viruses, whereas vaccinations against well-known, highly infectious diseases such as measles, mumps and polio have been around for decades and are proven effective when administered to overall populations. Many citizens have come to confuse the importance of various types of inoculations, and this is a result of poor education and misinformation on the part of the medical establishment and government health departments.
Charles Leduc, Vancouver
Since the growth of the anti-vaccination movement, I’m surprised we have yet to see a child sue her parents after contracting a preventable disease. All that unnecessary pain and suffering, including the risk of death, when the parents could have provided protection at no extra cost to them! Once a lawyer has pounced on the lawsuit opportunity, I’ll buy tickets to the inevitable movie, based on a true story, starring Julia Roberts.
Danielle van Schaik, Shawnigan Lake, B.C.
I’ve worked with dairy goats since 1971. I write for trade journals and occasionally get questions from vets. A coupIe of years ago, I had to shoot a six-week-old Nubian kid that was in full tetanic spasm. Neither she nor her dam had been vaccinated. As a farmer, I keep my own herd and myself immunized. The “anti-vaxxers” have never seen these diseases first-hand; they would change their tune in a hurry if they did.
Willi Boepple, Saanich Peninsula, B.C.
Working out the body of evidence
In response to the interview with me that appeared in an earlier issue (“The Interview,” Jan. 12), the most recent issue of Maclean’s contained a letter claiming high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to be risky and ineffective (“Minimum effort and maximum risk,” March 2). I am concerned that Canadians might confuse misinformed opinion with scientific fact. The letter writer correctly observes that fitness incorporates many elements, including flexibility, endurance, strength and speed. No single form of exercise targets every component, hence, the need for a well-rounded training program. HIIT is not a panacea, but the notion that it cannot be used to build endurance, that it is inherently dangerous to the heart or that it takes a minimum of four to six months to develop cardiovascular fitness, is simply wrong. Like any form of exercise, HIIT involves some element of risk and is not suited for everyone. Dozens of published scientific studies attest to the effectiveness of HIIT for improving cardiovascular fitness in both healthy individuals and those with many chronic conditions, including heart disease and diabetes. The growing body of evidence is irrefutable. Our recent study should not be interpreted to suggest that people only need three minutes of exercise per week. Rather, it is a reminder of the potency of interval training, and the fact that short, hard bursts of exercise can be very effective.
Martin Gibala, Ph.D., Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton
Oil and trouble
Why don’t the celebrities quoted in your article “A to Z of oil” (Economy, Feb. 16) use their energy and high profiles to fight a much bigger pollution problem, which is the amount of plastic in our oceans? Eight million tons of plastic enter oceans wordwide every year, as recently reported by a study in Science magazine. Unabated, this could pose a much larger problem than the 0.1 per cent of global greenhouse-gas emissions contributed by Canada’s oil sands.
Jeff Brisbois, Port Williams, N.S.
Making things better
Your letter writer Larry Kazdan makes some good points (Letters, March 2) in his argument that infrastructure renewal is the best way to stimulate the economy. But he leaves out the wealth creator that is manufacturing. After the Second World War, we were doing a lot of our own manufacturing. It created wealth to pay for roads and hospitals, among other categories. Today, as a result of sending so much of our manufacturing outside our borders over the last 50 years, we are in deep trouble. In 2014, we had a manufacturing trade deficit of $120.7 billion. An estimated 1.6 million Canadians are unemployed, including thousands of young adults who do not have jobs and whose prospects are very poor. Governments are facing deficits and cutting staff. What is the answer? Very simple: Reduce importation to eliminate the $120-billion deficit. Allow Canadian manufacturing to recover.
Edward J. Farkas, Toronto
Among the measures used by the National Survey of Student Engagment to gauge a university student’s learning outcome is whether he or she has had discussions with people of a different economic background or religious belief (“A truer measure of quality,” Student Issue, Feb. 23). I once designed a spreader beam for use with a 250-ton overhead crane in a heavy-equipment manufacturing plant in Hamilton. When its first heavy lift came on, the spreader beam collapsed. Strangely, my boss didn’t once inquire about my exposure to different religious beliefs or economic backgrounds. All he was interested in were the results: My beam collapsed, and someone could have been killed. Your arts universities and faculties, needed though they are, must learn to concentrate more on results that better equip their graduates for life.
Frank Gue, Burlington, Ont.
Start of the war
I take exception to reviewer Brian Bethune’s phrase “the century-long war on drugs,” although, in fairness, maybe the book being reviewed said there was a war back in 1914 (Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, by Johann Hari, Books, Feb. 16). My understanding is that anti-drug laws were a peacetime thing. As I recall, America did not declare war—with dirty collateral damage such as overcrowded prisons, and cries of “zero tolerance” that wasted the lives of folks caught at the Canadian border with a single joint in their possession—until the Reagan years.
Sean Crawford, Calgary
I am a Grade 7 student at Edmund Partridge Community School in Winnipeg. In our class, we read your article on how our city is the most racist in Canada (“Welcome to Winnipeg,” National. Feb. 2). Until the story came out for the whole world to see, I don’t think Winnipeggers realized how bad they are. While I love Winnipeg and it’s a beautiful place to live, every day I hear someone make a racist comment, either online, on the streets, or in shopping malls, and it makes me sick. But we are working very hard to change the label of Canada’s most racist city. How I wish we could be one big, happy city.
Kailee, age 12, Winnipeg
As I read through Nancy Macdonald’s article, “Against all odds” (Student Issue, Feb. 23), my first feeling was apprehension, having heard many stories of struggle and mistreatment of First Nations individuals. As I continued reading, I realized it was a story of strength rather than tragedy. I was moved by Ashley Richard’s determination and success, despite the many challenges she faced. Being a student myself, I find it difficult at times to succeed with the pressure and workload that accompanies school; I can’t imagine staying optimistic with the incredible roadblocks Richard faced. She is a role model for perseverance and dedication that lead to achieving one’s goals.
Erin Cook, Toronto