Electronic immunization records needed: Toronto health official

A Toronto public health official says there is a need to keep electronic vaccination records for children to help stop outbreaks of preventable diseases.

A Toronto public health official says there is a need to keep electronic vaccination records for children to help stop outbreaks of preventable diseases.

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Toronto's associate medical officer of health, says that sending letters to parents — who in turn have to dig for charts — is not an efficient way of tracking which children have had their shots.

By law children in Ontario must be vaccinated against measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus and polio.

But in 2008 the city witnessed the largest outbreak of measles since the mid-1990s, as well as cases of mumps.

According to Toronto public health, just over 96 per cent of the city's 350,000 school children have been immunized. Another one per cent are exempt because of medical and religious reasons, but finding the remaining three per cent and keeping track of immunization records is difficult.

Instead, as the province moves toward electronic health records, Yaffe said she wants children's immunization charts to be included.

"Then we would always be up-to-date on what every child has.  We wouldn't have to go through all this inefficient process of sending letters and bugging parents and even suspending some children, if we had that information." 

Yaffe said that even though the diseases children are vaccinated against are rare, "they can erupt if you don't get enough coverage."