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A measles virus is seen through an electron micrograph in a file photo.

Cynthia Goldsmith/The Canadian Press

After measles cases were reported in Canada and the United States this winter, public-health officials restated the importance of immunization and media reports shone a spotlight on vaccine skeptics.

The debate, however, doesn't appear to have changed the minds of the disbelievers: A new survey finds that most anti-vaxxer Canadian parents haven't changed their minds.

The Toronto-based polling firm Mainstreet Technologies contacted 1,013 Canadians whose children were not inoculated against measles, mumps and rubella. It found that 79 per cent of respondents said that, in the wake of the measles outbreaks, they were not at all likely to vaccinate their children.

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Mainstreet Technologies also found that 39 per cent of the anti-vaxxers earned more than $100,000 in household income, while 41 per cent earned between $50,000 and $100,000.

Two-thirds of the respondents completed postsecondary education, with 39 per cent having a university degree.

Likelihood of vaccinations

There has recently been an outbreak of measles both in Canada and the United States. Thinking about this, are you likely to now vaccinate your child?

SOURCE: Mainstreet Technologies

Reasons for refusing vaccination

What best describes the reason your child has not been vaccinated?

SOURCE: Mainstreet Technologies

The respondents were contacted between Feb. 22 and 38 by robocalls. Mainstreet Technologies said the margin of error is 3.08 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Doctors in Toronto are responding to a small measles outbreak in which four people – three of whom had not received their measles vaccine – were diagnosed with the infectious disease in less than a week. Health officials announced on Monday that tests confirmed infections in two adults and two children under the age of 2. One case was confirmed on Jan. 29, two on Jan. 30 and one on Feb.1. Public-health officials have not been able to find any connections between the four patients, nor have they been able to determine where they contracted the virus.

A brief history of the measles vaccine

Pre-1954

In pre-vaccine era, epidemics occurred frequently. Infection was almost universal. In Canada, measles was responsible for 400 cases of encephalitis and 50 to 75 deaths annually. In the U.S., 3 to 4 million people were infected each year, an estimated 4,000 suffered encephalitis and 400 to 500 people died.

1954-63

Measles virus is isolated and a vaccine developed.

Since 1963

Number of cases declines by 99 per cent (from approx. 350,000 per year before 1963 to less than 2000 per year in 1995.)

1995

A brief flare up was reported in Canada, leading to a two-dose immunization regimen. Some provinces and territories launched catch-up vaccination campaigns.

1998

Canada institutes a national, active measles surveillance program. All provinces and territories report confirmed cases of measles weekly to the Public Health Agency of Canada, which in turn reports weekly to the Pan American Health Organization.

With files from Kelly Grant
Sources: U.S. Center for Disease Control, Health Canada, Immunization Canada

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