B.C. woman resurrects petition to make vaccinations mandatory in schools

A Maple Ridge, B.C. mother has restarted a petition to make vaccinations mandatory at public schools amid a measles outbreak in Vancouver where eight cases were reported at one school.

'When your personal choice puts others at risk, it's no longer about you,' says Maple Ridge mother

A health official administers a measles vaccination at Maple Ridge Secondary School on Sept. 7, 2018. The woman behind an online petition to make vaccinations mandatory is frustrated because she says the Vancouver measles outbreak was preventable. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

A Maple Ridge, B.C., mother has resurrected a petition to make vaccinations mandatory at public schools amid a measles outbreak in Vancouver where eight cases were reported at one school.

By mid-afternoon Sunday, Katie Clunn's petition had more than 23,000 signatures, up from 8,000 on Friday.

"When your personal choice puts others at risk, it's no longer about you, it's about the impact it's having on the public," said Clunn, the mother of two children who is pregnant with her third.

"If you don't want to vaccinate ... home school."

Clunn originally launched the petition three years ago to gather signatures from the Maple Ridge school district, but now she is is gathering names across the province.

The petition calls on the province to amend its policy on public school enrolment to make it mandatory for parents to vaccinate their children before they can enrol their kids. There would be exceptions for medical reasons.

The measles vaccine is mandatory in Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick, but in B.C. the vaccine remains voluntary.

Monika Naus, medical director of communicable diseases and immunization at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, said a mandatory documentation policy has merit. 

"We've achieved pretty good uptake with the voluntary process," said Naus.

"Mandatory documentation of children's immunization status is always a consideration, depending on the trends that are happening, and sometimes those policy nudges can be very helpful," she said.

Katie Clunn, who has two children and another on the way worries about another measles outbreak because the new baby can't be vaccinated until 2020. (Nicolas Amaya/CBC)

Clunn says people should have the right to choose whether to vaccinate, but that choice shouldn't affect others — especially those whose immune systems are compromised.

The spike in the number of petition signatures may be attributed to the recent outbreak of measles in Vancouver.

Health officials reported eight cases of the disease on Friday — all from École Jules-Verne, a French-language high school in South Vancouver.

Another case of measles unrelated to the current outbreak was reported in Vancouver last week.

"It seems to be a yearly occurrence now, not just a random thing that happens every couple of years. Its so preventable, we could end this," said Clunn.

"Disease control depends on herd immunity so come on people - vaccinate your kids!!!" wrote one person who signed the petition. (change.org)

According to Vancouver Coastal Health, anyone who has ever had the infection does not need to be immunized. 

If you were born before 1994, or grew up outside of B.C., you may have received only one dose of the vaccine and require a second dose.

If you were born before 1970, you are likely to be immune to measles. However, if you aren't sure if you ever had the infection, a measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is safe and recommended.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story quoted the B.C. Centre for Disease Control recommending mandatory vaccination. in fact, it was recommending mandatory documentation of a child's immunization status.
    Feb 19, 2019 7:20 PM PT

With files from Michelle Ghoussoub

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