The province of British Columbia is starting a measles immunization catch up program. The program will run from now until June to allow children from K to 12 who are not up to date for measles vaccinations to get their immunizations. Kimberley schools have been sending information packages to parents this week.
According to the Ministry of Health communications team, the next step after the catch-up program is mandatory reporting of immunization status. That will begin in September.
However, this is not mandatory immunization.
Health Minister Dix recently said that “Some provinces have mandatory reporting of immunization status as part of the requirements for children and adolescents to attend school. This is seen in Ontario and New Brunswick.
“We are following the advice of our Provincial Health Officer who agrees with the advice the former PHO offered to the previous government to implement a mandatory registration system similar to what you see in other provinces. Details of the program will be announced in the future.”
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is working on recommendations around vaccinations, but is not entirely endorsing mandatory immunizations.
““Immunization is not strictly mandatory in any jurisdiction in Canada,” she said. “Mandatory immunization would mean that children who are not immunized would not be able to attend school at all. Evidence has shown that has downstream adverse effects on children and is likely against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“My recommendation for B.C. is for a model that allows for a formal process which parents must go through to register a medical contraindication or an objection based on personal belief. There are consequences, like excluding unimmunized children from school if there is an outbreak.
“I am working with experts from the Ministry of Health and the BC Centre for Disease Control. We will be consulting with partners across and outside government, including the Ministry of Education, the BC Pharmacy Association, Doctors of BC and education stakeholders to plan and implement a program that is tailored to B.C. – a balanced approach that allows us to raise immunization rates and address parents’ concerns, but will also ensure children are not negatively impacted and prohibited from attending school because of their parents’ decision. The details of the B.C. program will be announced in the coming months.
“My suggestion for parents now is to check your children’s immunization records to ensure they are up-to-date. Check with your public health office or family doctor for immunization records if you do not have them. Keep your records handy, so they are available to your local health unit for entry into the provincial immunization registry.”
Meanwhile, it’s not just children who should have up to date immunizations. Doctors at the Kimberley medical clinic are urging adult patients to check their immunization records and arrange for booster shots if they are not up to date.