Province launches catch-up immunization program to protect against measles

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VICTORIA, B.C. – The Province shares they are launching a measles immunization catch-up program to help B.C. families ensure their children are protected from measles.

The program will run from April through June 2019 will be delivered by Health authorities. According to the Government, the program will be made available in schools to children (from kindergarten to Grade 12), public health units, community health centres and mobile community clinics in select regions.

The program will be delivered similarly with some regional variations. By offering it in schools, public-health units and community health centres, the catch-up program is designed to make it simpler and stress-free for parents to ensure their children are adequately protected from measles. Pharmacists will also be part of the efforts to increase immunization rates shared by the Government.

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“With outbreaks of measles occurring globally and here in B.C., we know we will see threats of further outbreaks and can be doing more to raise immunization rates,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “That is why we are launching a catch-up program to immunize children from kindergarten to Grade 12 who have not previously been immunized against measles and to provide a dose for those who may not have received both doses.

“Our goal is to immunize as many people as possible before the end of the school year. The purpose, ultimately, is to reach an immunization rate of 95% as recommended.”

“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,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Education. “The K-12 education system plays a critical role in raising awareness of the importance of childhood vaccines and increasing immunization rates. We are continuing to work across government, and with our education and health community partners, to help curb preventable outbreaks and increase student safety.”

For this catch-up campaign, the Province is initially purchasing $3 million in the vaccine – the equivalent of a one year supply of vaccine.

The catch-up program is the first step in the government’s two-phase plan to educate people about the importance of immunization and help them become aware of their immunization status. Offering the measles immunization catch-up program now will also help prepare parents for the mandatory reporting of vaccination status, which is planned for the fall of 2019.

“Very few people in B.C. are against all vaccinations,” said Dr. Brian Emerson, deputy provincial health officer. “Due to a variety of other factors, measles immunization rates in B.C. are lower than they should be to ensure herd immunity.

“With this catch-up campaign, we can really work to reach herd immunity where at least 95% of the population is vaccinated. It will also help better prepare parents to be aware of vaccination status, for when we introduce the next step of mandatory reporting of school-age children’s vaccination status this fall.”

Without a record of immunization (or proof of immunity to a disease), a person is considered unimmunized and unprotected and should generally be immunized or re-immunized to ensure protection. It is safe to repeat immunizations.

Parents should check their children’s immunization records to be sure they are up-to-date. If they are unsure or do not have the records handy, they can check with their primary care provider or public-health unit. Parents can provide their child’s records to their local public-health unit for entry into the provincial immunization registry. If a child’s current immunization record is already on file with the local health unit, parents do not need to provide it again.

Health authorities will be working with schools to notify parents of upcoming measles immunization catch-up clinics, information about measles and what to expect if your child needs a measles immunization. Health authorities will contact families with under or unimmunized children through a variety of actions, including direct-calling families, sending emails and letters, and working with schools on newsletters.

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