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Province takes new steps to ensure students are vaccinated

By Lorraine Graves

Published 1:35 PDT, Fri June 28, 2019

Starting with the next school year, parents and guardians will be expected to provide the immunization status of their children to their local public health unit.

Starting with the next school year, parents and guardians will be expected to provide the immunization status of their children to their local public health unit.

The province is implementing this mandatory reporting requirement through the Vaccination Status Reporting Regulation.

“In the wake of the global measles outbreaks this spring, B.C. is implementing several measures to protect children and families from this and other communicable diseases through improved immunization,” says Health Minister Adrian Dix.

“This mandatory reporting of the immunization status of students will ensure the public health system is prepared in the event of an outbreak. Furthermore, with the up-to-date records, public health can reach out to families with children behind on their immunizations and provide an opportunity to catch them up, as well as discuss any concerns with parents.”

Most parents are already in compliance with this requirement, so they will not need to do anything further when the new school year starts. Parents or guardians with an incomplete or missing record will be contacted by public health on how to provide their child’s immunization information if it is needed, plus receive information on upcoming school-based or community health clinics where their child can receive immunizations if they require them.

“Through this additional measure, we can be confident that health officials will be able to provide better protection to our students by preventing outbreaks,” says Education Minister Rob Fleming. “Improving the rates of immunization of children and youth is critically important for student safety and healthy schools across B.C.”

Public health officials will review school enrolment records in late August and into October 2019 to match them against immunization records for Kindergarten to Grade 12 students that currently exist in the provincial immunization registry.

For the first year of this reporting requirement, the goal is to help parents get their children up to date on immunizations by the end of the school year.

Considerable work has already been done, and more is underway to help prepare for mandatory immunization status reporting.

As part of the measles immunization catch-up campaign, health authorities have reviewed thousands of records in relation to measles vaccinations.

At the same time, parents have been providing health units missing and updated records while taking advantage of the measles immunization clinics.

Mandatory reporting of student’s immunization status increases public health’s ability to respond during an outbreak, as it allows health officials to quickly identify those who don’t have immunizations or missing booster shots. Some people are under or unimmunized for severe health reasons. They can be the very people who depend on other people’s vaccinations to stay safe, healthy and, in some cases, alive.

It is also a prompt for parents to check and ensure immunizations for their children are up to date.

Is also provides public health officials another opportunity to connect with families about why immunization is important for the health and well-being of not only their children but of our whole  community.

In addition to public health clinics, parents are able to get their children immunized through their primary care providers such as family physicians or through community pharmacists at no charge.

Mandatory reporting is part of the ongoing plan to increase immunization rates for all vaccine-preventable diseases.

This effort commenced with the measles immunization catch-up program in April 2019.

The most recent numbers indicates that increasing the opportunities for guardians to get children immunized is improving immunization levels overall.

“This spring, we launched the catch-up measles immunization program throughout schools and public health units, which is having a positive effect,” says Dix.

“Since April, the number of kindergarten-to-Grade 12 students having received two doses of measles vaccine has increased by over 33,000. Based on the records reviewed so far by health authorities—amounting to over 566,000—nearly 95% of students have received one or two doses of vaccine.”

B.C. has a comprehensive provincial childhood immunization program, which includes coverage for a wide variety of diseases including measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, pertussis, polio, HPV, varicella, diphtheria, influenza, meningococcal disease and hepatitis.

To check on immunization status, or to find a public health unit anywhere in the province click.

 Learn more about measles and the vaccines here.

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