VANCOUVER — British Columbia’s health minister says the number of children fully immunized against measles rose by 37,525 between April and June as part of a catch-up program.
Adrian Dix says a requirement for parents to report students’ immunization records in September is expected to further increase vaccination rates in a province that has seen 29 cases of the infectious disease this year.
Dix says up to 50,000 children begin kindergarten every year so the push for vaccination will continue as measles remains a public health issue, especially given that Washington state declared an emergency in January over a rising number of cases and rates of infection increased around the world.
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Dix says the number of vaccinations at doctors’ offices and pharmacists has also increased, with 1,220 people getting immunized by pharmacists between April and June, up from 21 during the same period last year.
He says more public education about measles led to a large number of students in Grades 10, 11 and 12 getting themselves immunized at over 1,000 clinics set up at schools.
Health authorities in B.C. also held over 3,500 public health clinics during the three-month catch-up period so people could get immunized.
“The big challenge is that there’s a tendency to respond to these things when they’re seen as crises and after the crisis ends you sort of take the foot off the gas and we don’t intend to do that,” Dix says. “By changing the way that we engage with people on immunization that’s going to continue.”
Two separate doses of the measles mumps and rubella vaccine are needed to provide immunity against the highly contagious airborne disease, the first dose at 12 months of age and the second usually between the ages of four and six.
Symptoms of the disease that was eradicated in Canada in 1998 include fever, cough, runny nose and a rash that starts on the face and spreads to the chest.