British Columbia

Immunization requests spike in wake of measles outbreak

Health professionals in the Lower Mainland are scrambling to keep up with immunization inquiries after 36 people were sent home from Vancouver schools for exposure to measles.

36 people have been sent home from Vancouver schools after exposure

Health authorities are reminding parents that children over five can receive a vaccination from a pharmacist. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Three more people have been asked to stay home from two Vancouver French schools after exposure to measles, bringing the total to 36 and as the numbers of people exposed increase, so do calls from panicked parents trying to protect their children.

Audey Korpus and his wife were shocked when they called the Fraser Health Authority's central booking line Tuesday morning to request a measles immunization appointment for their seven-year-old daughter and learned that 120 people were already waiting in the call queue. 

'I started to panic a little bit," said Korpus.

He called back in the afternoon and the queue had grown to 320, and it remained at more than 300 on Wednesday morning. The booking line then experienced technical difficulties and Korpus said he could not get through to anyone.

The couple gave up on the phone line and booked their daughter for an appointment through a pharmacist instead. 

Call HealthLink B.C.

Dr. Shovita Padhi, medical health officer with Fraser Health, said the outbreak is causing increased call volumes and staff is working extra hours to accommodate everyone.

Padhi said many of the calls coming in are from  people requesting information, not solely wanting to book an immunization. She recommends anyone with questions should call 811 and direct those questions to HealthLink B.C. to reduce wait times for those on hold wanting an actual appointment.

According to Fraser Health, once people connect with central booking, they will be able to get their immunization within 15 days. Parents can also ask their family doctor, visit a walk-in clinic or take children over five years old to a pharmacist for an immunization.

'This is for our entire community'

In West Vancouver, family physician Dr. Maryam Zeineddin has also seen an increase in immunization inquiries from parents.

Zeineddin said several of her patients are also concerned about their own immunity status.

According to Zeineddin, anyone born between 1970 and 1994 requires two doses of the MMR vaccine. She said there is no risk to having a second dose again if you are unsure, but a blood test can determine if a patient is up to date. 

"Don't get it just for yourself, this is for our entire community," said Zeineddin.

"It's to protect the patients who are under the age of five, it's to protect the pregnant ladies, and it's to protect the patients who are elderly and immunocompromised."