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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

The anti-truth of anti-vaxxers

BY Xavier Kataquapit May 24, 2019

I have just gotten over a terrible flu. I felt miserable for 10 days and this sickness lingered, giving me congestion in my lungs, problems with my sinuses as well as headaches and weakness. I did try to be cautious this flu season, taking care to avoid people with symptoms and large gatherings, and frequently washing my hands. One of the reasons I am taking such great care is because my partner Mike has a lung condition and it is dangerous for him to end up with a cold or flu.

There is a lot of good research out there on flu shots and after digging up as much information as I could, I have decided that it is a good idea to get my annual flu shot. There is no guarantee that the flu shot will be 100% effective for whatever strain of flu happens to be running around the country, but one thing for sure is that getting this shot will mean that we probably won’t get a severe case of the flu. More importantly, the more of us who get vaccinated then the smaller the chance that vulnerable Elders, babies and people with medical conditions will come down with what could amount to a life-threatening situation.

More than 3,500 people die from the flu in Canada every year and more than 12,000 people are hospitalized because of it. Due to a lot of misinformation on social media, fake news has been spread that promotes a negative take on all vaccines. Well, it is possible that in many rare cases people could have a reaction to a flu shot but generally it is much better to get it rather than risk death or hospitalization. It is ridiculous that only one in four children and one in three adults in Canada actually get the flu shot.

I am shocked at how we are now living in an age of anti-vaccination. Having travelled to over 30 countries on this planet I can tell you that I am very grateful that we have such a good medical system that provides vaccinations for free. Diseases like measles, mumps and polio had been all concerns of the past but in recent years we are seeing new cases of these terrible afflictions and much of the blame for this has to do with conspiracy news circulating on social media that questions the safety or usefulness of vaccines. 

I have noticed a lot of anti-vaccine content on social media that tries to convince people that these vaccines are responsible for all kinds of health problems. However, there is no real proof ever put forth. Given that the public is more or less suspicious of pharmaceutical companies and the medical establishment, there are many who take advantage of these fears and spread all kinds of nonsense about vaccines. A lot of people are not getting their children vaccinated and that is producing a situation where these terrible diseases are creeping back into our society. Even polio is reappearing in the United States although it was supposed to have been eradicated. Shame on us. 

Many of us who question Big Pharma, the medical establishment and government policies are more than willing to believe any baloney we come across even if it might endanger our lives and the lives of our children. I am forever questioning the role that physicians and the pharmaceutical industry have had in the promotion of opioids. I am also very supportive of many more natural treatments and in general the naturopathic trend. I am also supportive of many of the traditional treatments that have been handed down by my people through the ages.

However, I am not naive enough to ever think that we should start treating devastating diseases from the past like measles, mumps, chicken pox and whooping cough with unfounded treatments. Thanks to science and some great research, children are not dying or being disabled by these terrible diseases anymore in this country. That is because we have vaccines. 

Let’s always question government, big pharma and the medical establishment because that is just a healthy thing to do. However, when it comes to proven health solutions like vaccines, could we deal with reality and make the choice to accept these life-saving treatments? Don’t believe most of what you see circulating on social media and make an effort to do some real research for yourself and your family. Your life or the lives of your loved ones could depend on it. 

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Xavier Kataquapit is Cree from Attawapiskat First Nation on the James Bay coast. He is a writer and columnist who has written about his life and Indigenous issues since 1998.