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Immunization status reporting next step in ongoing effort to protect against outbreaks

Health Minister Adrian Dix
Health Minister Adrian Dix

Parents and guardians will be expected to provide public health units with immunization records for students enrolled in the provincial school system. The province is implementing this mandatory reporting requirement through the Vaccination Status Reporting Regulation. “In the wake of the global measles outbreaks this spring, B.C. is implementing several measures to protect children and families from this and other communicable diseases through improved immunization,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, in a news release. “Starting this school year, parents and guardians will be expected to provide the immunization status of their children to their local public health unit. This mandatory reporting of the immunization status of students will ensure the public health system is prepared in the event of an outbreak. Furthermore, with the up-to-date records, public health can reach out to families with children behind on their immunizations and provide an opportunity to catch them up, as well as discuss any concerns with parents.”

Most parents are already in compliance with this requirement, so they will not need to do anything further when the new school year starts. Parents or guardians with an incomplete or missing record will be contacted by public health on how to provide their child’s immunization information if it is needed, plus receive information on upcoming school-based or community health clinics where their child can receive immunizations if they require them.

“Through this additional measure, we can be confident that health officials will be able to provide better protection to our students by preventing outbreaks,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Education. “Improving the rates of immunization of children and youth is critically important for student safety and healthy schools across B.C.”

Public health officials will review school enrolment records in late August and into October 2019 to match them against immunization records for kindergarten-to-Grade 12 students that currently exist in the provincial immunization registry. For the first year of the reporting requirement, the goal will be to help parents get their children up to date on immunizations by the end of the school year.

Considerable work has already been done, and more is underway to help prepare for mandatory immunization status reporting. As part of the measles immunization catch-up campaign, health authorities have been reviewing thousands of records in relation to measles vaccinations. At the same time, parents have been providing health units missing and updated records while taking advantage of the measles immunization clinics.

Mandatory reporting of student’s immunization status increases public health’s ability to respond during an outbreak, as it allows health officials to quickly identify those who are under- and un-immunized.

It is also a prompt for parents to check and ensure immunizations for their children are up to date and provides public health officials another opportunity to connect with families about why immunization is important for the health and well-being of their children, as well as the community. In addition to public health clinics, parents are able to get their children immunized through their primary care providers or community pharmacists.

Mandatory reporting is part of the ongoing plan to increase immunization rates for all vaccine-preventable diseases. This effort commenced with the measles immunization catch-up program in April 2019. The most recent data indicates that increasing the opportunities for guardians to get children immunized is improving immunization levels overall.

“This spring, we launched the catch-up measles immunization program throughout schools and public health units, which is having a positive effect,” said Dix. “Since April, the number of kindergarten-to-Grade 12 students having received two doses of measles vaccine has increased by over 33,000. Based on the records reviewed so far by health authorities – amounting to over 566,000 – nearly 95 per cent of students have received one or two doses of vaccine.”

B.C. has a comprehensive provincial childhood immunization program, which includes coverage for a wide variety of diseases including measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, pertussis, polio, HPV, varicella, diphtheria, influenza, meningococcal disease and hepatitis.

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