Health Minister Adrian Dix says British Columbia has seen a “dramatic increase” in the number of children vaccinated against measles since the introduction of a provincial program targeting the infectious disease.
Almost 16,000 children and teens were inoculated against the highly contagious airborne disease in April and May, the first two months of the new Measles Immunization Catch-up Program.
The goal is to immunize children from kindergarten through Grade 12 if they have not previously been vaccinated against measles or may not have received both recommended doses.
The voluntary program was introduced following a measles outbreak in B.C. linked to two French schools in Vancouver, and Dix says 29 cases have been confirmed in the province so far this year.
Health authorities have also reviewed more than half a million students’ immunization records, and the parents and guardians of those with incomplete or missing records have been notified.
The information, combined with new immunizations, means the number of students confirmed to have both doses over the first two months rose by 23,876.
“We’re making progress, you can see in these numbers, which are a dramatic increase over the same periods in previous years,” Dix says.
A report released Tuesday did not provide corresponding immunization figures for April and May 2018 and the Health Ministry did not have them immediately available.
But the report says the BC Centre for Disease Control distributed 96,420 doses of the measles vaccine to health authorities in April and May, compared with 24,570 doses over the same period last year.
Beginning in September, it will be mandatory for parents to report their child’s immunization record. The measure does not require children to be vaccinated in order to attend school.
Dix says British Columbia’s measles cases come amid international outbreaks of the disease, including more than 1,000 cases in the United States.
“We know that people, British Columbians, travel in the summer and this is a good time, if you haven’t been immunized, to be immunized,” he says.
There will be 900 public clinics and 230 school-based clinics offering the vaccine this month, he adds.
While misinformation about vaccinations circulates online, he says the “vast, vast majority” of people understand that immunizations make children safe.
Measles can cause complications and death, most commonly in infants younger than one year old, and adults, the BC Centre for Disease Control says.
Symptoms include fever, cough, watery eyes and a red blotchy rash that begins on the face and spreads all over the body.
Anyone who suspects they have measles should contact their doctor before visiting the office to avoid infecting other patients in the waiting area.