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Parents seeking more info about vaccines after 5 measles cases confirmed in Ontario, doctor says

A phone line for parents seeking information about vaccines has seen an increase in calls in the past few weeks after five measles cases were confirmed in Ontario this year, a Toronto doctor said. 

The Vaccine Consult Service, based at SickKids, is a pilot project that lets parents have in-depth conversations with nurses about immunizations in a “safe, non-judgmental” environment, said Dr. Pierre-Philippe Piché-Renaud, a pediatric infectious disease physician at SickKids.

“We’ve seen an uptake in the numbers of calls in the past few weeks, especially in recent days and weeks, with the situation around measles,” he told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning on Wednesday. 

However, Piché-Renaud said the Vaccine Consult Service is “halted for now” as funding received from the Public Health Agency of Canada has not been renewed. The project’s website lists Wednesday as the last day to book an appointment. 

Piché-Renaud said the project is looking for ways to renew the funding. 

CBC News has reached out to the Public Health Agency of Canada for comment.

Typically, parents call the phone line “to confirm that it would be OK for their child to be immunized,” Piché-Renaud said. He said some situations include if their child has underlying medical conditions or has experienced side-effects from one or more vaccines in the past. 

The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine consists of two doses, according to a city of Toronto press release. 

If somebody receives the recommended two doses of the vaccine, in theory, the risk of catching measles is “almost zero,” Piché-Renaud said. 

“It is not 100 per cent perfect, but it’s close to that,” he said. 

Children under 12 months cannot receive the vaccine, Piché-Renaud said, adding that individuals who are immunocompromised may still catch measles even if previously vaccinated. 

Check your vaccine status, TPH says

With March break looming, Toronto Public Health (TPH) is advising families to check that they are protected against measles before travelling. 

“Due to a decline in measles vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic, health authorities have reported a significant increase in measles outbreaks globally with recent cases of measles reported in Toronto, York Region, Peel Region and Brant County,” TPH said in a news release on Wednesday. 

All Ontarians are eligible for free measles vaccination, TPH said. School-aged children can book an appointment at a TPH community clinic or visit their primary health care provider, they said. 

Adults can access the vaccine for free through primary care and some walk-in clinics, the statement read. 

“Those unsure of their vaccination status are asked to check with their healthcare provider,” TPH said. 

A measles outbreak is not inevitable in Ontario, Piché-Renaud said. About 95 per cent of the population should be fully vaccinated for measles to not spread, he said. 

Measles symptoms can include a high fever, cold-like symptoms, cough, runny nose, small spots with white centres inside the mouth, sore eyes, sensitivity to light and a red, blotchy rash lasting four to seven days, TPH said.

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