British Columbia

Parents of unvaccinated B.C. children must speak to health staff under new reporting program: ministry

Parents who choose not to vaccinate their school-age children in B.C. or who don't provide children's health records will be required to speak with public health staff as part of a new, mandatory immunization reporting program beginning this fall, according to the education ministry.

Students who aren't vaccinated are now also required to stay home 21 days in event of outbreak

September is a critical month for parents of children with special needs to advocate for what their child needs and to learn what resources are available to them. (Shutterstock)

Parents who choose not to vaccinate their school-age children in B.C. will be required to speak with public health staff as part of a new, mandatory immunization reporting program beginning this fall, according to the education ministry.

The new reporting regime was created in wake of a global measles outbreak, including the worst the United States has seen in decades. At least 30 people have been confirmed diagnosed with measles in B.C. since 2019 began.

On Wednesday, Education Minister Rob Fleming said more than 30,000 school-age children have been vaccinated for the highly infectious disease as part of a catch-up program that ran between April and June.

Ideally, Fleming said, most parents won't need to speak to public health workers at all come the first day of school.

"Our hope is that most parents coming back into the school system will have absolutely nothing to do; their records are known, there is co-ordination between the ministries of health and education on having complete records, and most parents won't have to do a thing," Fleming told reporters during a conference call Wednesday.

"That will allow us to focus on parents that have incomplete or missing records for their child or children in the school system."

A health care worker prepares syringes, including a vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), for a child's inoculations on Feb. 13, 2019. Officials in B.C. say upwards of 30,000 people have been immunized against the disease since April. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

The same reporting program also requires students to stay home for 21 days if there is a measles outbreak — the length of time it may take after exposure for symptoms such as fever and rash to appear.

In July, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said 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.

Dix said more public education about measles led to a large number of students in grades 10, 11 and 12 getting immunized at more than 1,000 clinics set up at schools this spring.

Health authorities in B.C. also held more than 3,500 public health clinics during the 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 said.

"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 (MMR) 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, which was eradicated in Canada in 1998, include fever, cough, runny nose and a rash that starts on the face and spreads to the chest.

With files from Yvette Brend and the Canadian Press

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