Coaldale principal reflects on measles outbreak at his school

Joop Harthorn, the principal of Coaldale Christian School, talked to the Calgary Eyeopener about the recent measles outbreak at his school.

Measles outbreak in the Lethbridge area prompted health alerts, isolation tent and vaccination clinics

Coaldale Christian School is getting back to normal after being the epicentre of a measles outbreak in southern Alberta.

There have been 19 cases confirmed in the area over the last few weeks after a Grade 9 student was the first to be diagnosed. 

Alberta's chief medical officer of health said the original case had been traced back to a traveller who recently returned from the Netherlands.

Principal Joop Harthorn spoke to the Calgary Eyeopener this morning about the effects of the outbreak.

  • Listen to his full interview below:

He said as soon as it was confirmed they met with Alberta Health Services and principals from other smaller schools in the area to decide on the best plan of action.

"We followed it up, and sent notices home. The first thing we did was inform the parents if the children did not have their booster shots ... or were not immunized at all, they would have to stay home after possible exposure to the student," he said.

He said at least 95 per cent of the 160 students did get vaccinated for measles, but there were a large number of kindergarten students who didn't have their second booster shot.

Dr. Vivien Suttorp, the medical officer of health for the south zone, said in October the biggest concern is the low rate of immunization because it is well beyond the requirements for herd immunity — meaning a larger risk of outbreak.

Students welcomed back this week

Vaccine clinics were offered in the area and an isolation tent was set up at the Chinook Regional Hospital to help separate those with the highly-contagious disease.

Harthorn said the health alerts warning parents to get their children immunized really sent the message home.

"It's not like we want to judge people who do not immunize, but if me not immunizing would affect your child — in some cases [with] very disastrous consequences — then we have to look at it very critically," he said.

Harthorn said Alberta Health Services did a "marvellous job" at helping them evaluate the situation after the outbreak.

The school welcomed back all its students this week after 15 children who were not immunized had to stay home in quarantine for 21 days. 

Harthorn said all of their students are now immunized.

"I recommend everyone do take notice of measles and have your children immunized," he said.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.