What parents need to know about the upcoming vaccination registry in B.C.
Suspensions and exemptions expected in a model similar to Ontario's
B.C.'s provincial health officer is working with experts from the Ministry of Health and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control and other stakeholders on fine-tuning the details of a mandatory immunization program to be rolled out at the beginning of the next school year.
Dr. Bonnie Henry says mandatory reporting will affect all students across B.C.
"I am glad that the province is moving forward with this, with a timeline of implementing an immunization registration policy this September," said Henry.
Both Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix have said B.C.'s model will closely follow Ontario's immunization program for children attending school.
This is what B.C. parents can expect when mandatory immunization reporting takes effect:
- Before the school year begins, parents will need to gather their child's immunization records either from their physician or public health.
- Immunization records will be submitted to the school, likely with the usual registration records as the school year begins. That information will be forwarded to public health and entered into the registry.
- If a particular immunization is missing, parents will be advised to follow up with their public health unit or physician to get their child up to date.
- There will likely be a grace period for students who are not caught up with their required immunizations.
- If a parent wants their child exempt based on their personal beliefs, Henry said that will require a notarized form that outlines that parents understand the potential consequences of their child not being immunized.
- Exemptions will likely be allowed for valid medical reasons, like allergic reactions, and those will be reviewed by a medical health officer.
- Suspensions for non-compliance are likely.
Suspensions and exclusions
Right now in the Waterloo region of Ontario, 6,129 students are on suspension notice because their immunization records aren't up to date.
Parents have until March 26 to provide proof of immunization or a valid exemption to avoid suspension, which can last up to 20 days.
In B.C., health minister Adrian Dix used the term "exclusion," rather than suspension, when he said on Tuesday that 30 to 40 students and adults are currently prohibited from attending schools affected by the measles outbreak.
"Public health protocols under the public health act exclude students from school if they aren't immunized," said Dix.
March break travellers
In light of the current measles outbreak, and with spring break just around the corner when many families will be travelling, Henry is advising adults and children to get their vaccinations fully up to date as soon as possible.