Community pharmacists in B.C. have joined a chorus of health officials urging residents to get vaccinated after a recent outbreak of measles in Vancouver.
The B.C. Pharmacy Association is reminding the public that pharmacists across the province are prepared to give booster shots or new vaccinations to adults and children five years or older. The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is publicly-funded and available from pharmacists in nearly every community, the association said in a news release Friday.
“Community pharmacists are one of the most accessible health care providers and have had the authority to provide injections since 2009,” said the association’s CEO, Geraldine Vance.
“Families and individuals looking to make sure their vaccinations are up-to-date can go to their local pharmacist for care.”
Vancouver Coastal Health also recommends vaccinations. People who have previously had the infection do not need immunization.
B.C. children born in or after 1994 routinely get two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, one dose when they turn a year old and another before they start kindergarten.
People born before 1994 or who grew up outside of B.C. may need a second dose. People born before 1970 are likely immune; but if they aren’t sure whether they have had the infection, they can safely get the MMR vaccine.
Vaccinations and boosters are also available at doctors’ offices, and Immunization B.C. provides a map of local health units offering publicly-funded vaccinations at immunizebc.ca/finder. Services vary by location.
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Earlier this week, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said measles is a “serious and highly contagious disease” and that getting inoculated is the best way to avoid getting sick — and transmitting it to others who may be unprotected.
Tam’s comments Tuesday came after a cluster of nine cases of measles in Vancouver that began in recent weeks after an unvaccinated Canadian child contracted the disease on a family trip to Vietnam.
The rate of immunization among students at the two Vancouver schools where the outbreak originated has since increased, according to an update earlier this week from Vancouver Coastal Health.
At École Secondaire Jules‐Verne and École Rose-Des-Vents, both francophone schools, the measles immunization rate is now 95.5 and 94 per cent respectively, said Althea Hayden, a medical health officer, at a news conference Tuesday.
“Before this outbreak started, we had documentation for only about 70 per cent of students having immunity,” said Hayden, adding that the rise in immunity is not just due to new vaccinations but also the result of those who have now reported their vaccination records, when their immunization status was previously undeclared.
Herd immunity requires a threshold of about 92 per cent.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control tracks child immunization and reports that 82.1 per cent of children aged seven had been immunized for measles in 2018, compared to 88.4 per cent in 2017 and 90.2 per cent in 2016.
With files from Tiffany Crawford, Stephanie Ip and The Canadian Press