B.C. launches measles immunization catch-up program

Vancouver Courier

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In light of a number of cases of the disease in recent months, the province Wednesday morning announced a measles immunization catch-up program.

“With outbreaks of measles occurring globally and here in B.C., we know we will see threats of further outbreaks and can be doing more to raise immunization rates,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a news release. “That is why we are launching a catch-up program to immunize children from kindergarten to Grade 12 who have not previously been immunized against measles and to provide a dose for those who many not have received both doses.”

The program will is run from April until June with the goal, Dix said, of immunizing as many students as possible by the end of the school year.

“The purpose, ultimately, is to reach an immunization rate of 95 per cent as recommended.”

There were 15 reported cases on the measles in Vancouver in February — 11 linked to an outbreak at three Francophone schools, three were individuals who picked up the virus while travelling overseas and in one case public health officials were not able to determine where the infection was picked up.

Two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine are needed for life-long immunity. One dose is typically given when a child is 12 months of age with a second dose given when they start school.

The province is purchasing $3 million worth of the vaccine, which is the equivalent of a one-year supply.

In February, Dix announced the province will start requiring parents to provide proof of immunization when enrolling their children in school. That is expected to be in place for the start of the school year in September.

“Safeguarding the health and well-being of children, staff and teachers who come into our classrooms and their family members at home is one of our highest priorities,” said Education Minister Rob Fleming. “The K-12 education system plays a critical role in raising awareness of the importance of childhood vaccines and increasing immunization rates.”

The immunization catch-up program is part of the government’s two-phase plan to education people about immunization and help them become aware of their own immunization status.

“Very few people in B.C. are against all vaccinations,” said Dr. Brian Emerson, deputy provincial health officer. “Due to a variety of factors, measles immunizations rates in B.C. are lower than they should be to ensure herd immunity.

“With this catch-up campaign, we can really work to reach herd immunity where at least 95 per cent of the population is vaccinated. It will also help better prepare parents to be aware of vaccination status, for when we introduce the next step of mandatory reporting of school-age children’s vaccination status this fall.”

The catch-up program will be delivered by health authorities and will be made available in schools for students, public health units, community health centres and mobile community clinics in select regions.

The health authorities will work with schools to notify parents of upcoming measles immunization catch-up clinics, information about measles and what to expect if your child needs a measles vaccinations. The province said the health authorities will also contact families with under or unimmunized children through a variety of ways, including direct phone calls, emails, letters and through school newsletters.

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