B.C. launches student ‘catch-up’ program for measles vaccinations

Henrietta Strickland
March 23, 2019

VICTORIA, B.C- We had a measles scare on Vancouver Island a few weeks back and now the province has launched a measles catch-up program, giving British Columbians three months to get one or both doses.

On Wednesday, Health Minister Adrian Dix said data from last year indicates 82 per cent of seven-year-olds in B.C. have been immunized against measles - a number he said needs improvement.

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.

According to the Ministry of Health, it's created to be a "simpler and stress-free" system for parents to ensure that their children are protected from measles.

The government will spend $3 million to purchase a one-year supply of the measles vaccine for the catch-up campaign.

The program will run this spring from April through June.

This measles immunization catch-up program is the first step in the government's two-phase plan.

Dix said he believes "very few" people in the province are actually anti-vaccine, but that many busy parents simply forget to immunize their children, especially when it comes to the second dose of the measles vaccine.

"With this catch-up campaign, we can really work hard to reach herd immunity where at least 95 per cent of the population is vaccinated", Emerson said in a statement.

Parents who have not had their children immunized against measles will be able to have their children vaccinated at school beginning next month.

With outbreaks reported around the world in places like the Philippines and Washington state in the U.S., Dix said he expects to see more outbreaks locally in the future. Once herd immunity is reach, it becomes much more hard for potentially deadly diseases such as measles to spread.

In 2010, an outbreak of 87 measles cases was recorded in the province during the Winter Olympics. "Due to a variety of factors, measles immunizations rates in B.C. are lower than they should be to ensure herd immunity".

Complications from measles can include pneumonia, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), convulsions (seizures), deafness, brain damage and death.

Without having a record of immunizations or proof of immunity to a disease, a person is considered unimmunized and unprotected and should generally be immunized or re-immunized to ensure they are protected. It is safe to repeat immunizations.

Dix said letters will be sent to parents and guardians of children whose vaccination status is not up-to-date.

Close contact is not needed for transmission.

The virus has an incubation period of about up to 21 days, meaning it can take that long for symptoms such as fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes to show. This combination vaccine can be given up to 12 years of age but is not approved for use in older adolescents nor adults.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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