Father in eye of Vancouver measles storm cites autism fears

by Leo Almazora20 Feb 2019

Anyone familiar with chaos theory knows the oft-cited metaphor: a butterfly flapping its wings in one point of the world could create storms in another far-removed location. And as the case of one man in Vancouver shows, one fateful action could have consequences not just across space, but across time as well.

The father of the children in the eye of a measles outbreak in Vancouver said he didn’t have them vaccinated because he and his then-wife didn’t trust the science behind the treatment.

“We worried 10-12 years ago because there was a lot of debate around the MMR vaccine,” Emmanuel Bilodeau told CBC News, referring to reports that tied the vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) to autism.

The BC Centre for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that children be given two doses of the vaccine: one when they are 12 months old and another when they are five or six years of age. The CDC also says that there is no scientific evidence linking the vaccine to autism; academic research that came out after the initial controversial study has debunked its conclusions.

Insisting that his family is not anti-vaccination, Bilodeau said he is aware of that development. “We're just very cautious parents and we just tried to do it in the manner that was the least invasive possible on the child's health,” he said. “We were hoping we could find a vaccine that was given in a separate shot so it wasn't such a hit on the kid.”

Bilodeau and his family went on a trip to Vietnam earlier this year, prior to which he had his sons vaccinated against diseases other than measles. On the plane ride home, his 11-year-old son reportedly began exhibiting symptoms of the illness, leading him to conclude that the child contracted it during their holiday excursion.

On January 21, Bilodeau brought the boy to BC Children’s Hospital; medical staff initially ruled out measles, which he said they knew that the boy hadn’t been inoculated against. Instead, they conducted tests for malaria and influenza. It was only after a few trips to the hospital, during which time his other two sons started exhibiting symptoms, when measles was finally discovered as the culprit. Bilodeau claimed that he mentioned the possibility to doctors.

“Our physicians and staff thoroughly assess each child that presents in our Emergency Department and treat them accordingly. Should a parent raise a concern about a specific disease, including measles, it would be discussed and then followed up on as appropriate,” the hospital told CBC News in an email.

The disease has spread at the French-language schools Bilodeau’s children attend. Nine cases of measles have been confirmed in Vancouver in recent weeks, prompting the Public Health Agency of Canada to issue a reminder to Canadians about the dangers posed by the disease.

“Due to the recent reports of measles, the Public Health Agency of Canada would like to remind Canadians that measles is a serious and highly contagious disease that causes high fevers, coughing, sneezing and a wide-spread painful rash,” the agency said.