Children who are not immunized against measles can now access vaccines in school starting in April as part of an immunization “catch-up” program, BC’s ministry of health announced Wednesday.
This announcement comes on the heels of a measles outbreak in the province. There have been 19 confirmed cases since the virus hit Vancouver when a family with unvaccinated children returned from a trip to Vietnam.
This immunization program will begin in April and go until June in an effort to prepare families for the new mandatory reporting that will be enforced in schools in the fall semester.
The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps, and rubella. Routine vaccination generally provides children with two doses of the vaccine — one at 12 months old and the other between 4 and 6 years old, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control.
"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," Rob Fleming, BC’s education minister, said in a statement.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said that the goal is to vaccinate as many people as possible before school ends, and that details on the new reporting plan will be released in May. He added that the reporting will provide health officials will more current data on student immunization records.
We are launching a catch-up program to immunize as many students in K-12 as possible before the end of the school year to help B.C. families ensure children are protected from measles @Rob_Fleming@bc_pharmacy@CDCofBChttps://t.co/agMzvVOkDlpic.twitter.com/Ryy7ESUQ4V— Adrian Dix (@adriandix) March 20, 2019
“Mandatory immunization is not what where we're going to be proceeding in September. It's going to be a mandatory registration system similar to what you see in other provinces,” Dix said in a statement.
As it stands, only Ontario and New Brunswick require proof of immunizations for children to attend school.
According to Dix, 82% of 7-year-old children had received vaccines against measles in BC in 2018. Comparatively, about 91% of 7-year-olds were up to date on their immunizations in Ontario in the 2016-2017 school year — which was under the target Ontario had set for 99% at the time.
A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that the anti-vax movement has been a driving force behind the measles outbreaks popping up all over the world.
Anti-vaxxers often believe that the MMR vaccination is linked to autism due to findings published findings in the Lancet by now-discredited former doctor Andrew Wakefield. These findings were never replicated and a recent study has proved yet again that there is no link between the measles vaccine and autism.
Still, anti-vax theories have scared parents enough that some avoid vaccinating their children.
More than 100,000 people died from the measles in 2017 — most of which were children under the age of 5.
Measles is highly contagious and was once the root of recurring epidemics that killed an estimated 2.6 million people per year.
The measles vaccine prevented an estimated 21.1 million deaths from 2000 to 2017 — an 80% drop in measles-related deaths around the world.