Doctor warns about dangers of outbreak
by Phil Ambroziak
Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
Meadow Lake doctor Jake Letkeman believes this age-old statement could prove all too true if more people aren’t convinced about the importance of vaccinating themselves and their children against disease.
“Many of our younger population have never seen some of the diseases vaccines were designed to combat and they may not be aware of the consequences,” Letkeman said.
Aside from what he described as the public’s general lack of knowledge about certain diseases, Letkeman claims there’s also been a trend in recent years that favours natural or alternative forms of medicine over traditional methods. This trend, he continued, has also deterred some people from having their children immunized against such illnesses as diphtheria, whooping cough, polio, measles and more. In some cases, he added, these concerns stem from the belief vaccines cause adverse side effects.
“People need to realize vaccines have changed over the years, remarkably reducing any such possibilities,” Letkeman noted.
Although she didn’t have exact numbers available, public health nurse Armande Ferland agreed with Letkeman, stating more people appear to be opting out of immunization in recent years compared to the past because of the misconception vaccines can be dangerous.
“The engineering of today’s vaccines is really well done,” Ferland said. “We’ve had very few complaints about side effects.”
In an attempt to steer more people back to a traditional way of thinking, Letkeman shared some historical facts surrounding certain illnesses.
“In the 20th Century, 400 million people died of smallpox whereas today – thanks to the smallpox vaccine – the disease has been eradicated,” he said. “There are also those of us who remember the polio outbreak in the 1940s and how the world changed when Jonas Salk introduced the polio vaccine. Also, there have been no deaths from the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine and no evidence exists to link vaccines to any form of permanent brain damage, SIDS, developmental delays, autism, attention deficit disorder, learning disabilities, hyperactivity, cancer or leukaemia, or any other severe chronic conditions.
He went on to note side effects, if any, would be minimal.
“And, there’d still only be a small price to pay to avoid the death the diseases themselves can cause – diseases that will return if we turn our backs on modern medicine,” Letkeman said.
Meanwhile, Ferland encourages anyone with concerns or questions about vaccines, the importance of immunization or those looking to book an appointment to contact the Meadow Lake public health office.
“People aren’t seeing some of the diseases anymore, so they don’t perceive them to be a credible threat,” she said. “Unfortunately, there’s also a lot of information out there which isn’t credible. Many people tend to take someone’s anecdotal word instead of looking at researched medical information.”
As for why Letkeman is so passionate about bringing more people back to a traditional way of thinking – the veteran doctor said the reason is a simple one.
“I’ve lived through it – have seen the whole thing happen before,” Letkeman said. “To have it happen again when it doesn’t have to is a backward step. Unfortunately, some people are just too narrow minded.”