As of the new school year in September 2019, parents and guardians will be expected to provide public health units with immunization records for students enrolled in the provincial school system.
“In the wake of the global measles outbreaks this spring, B.C. is implementing several measures to protect children and families from this and other communicable diseases through improved immunization,” says Adrian Dix, Minister of Health.
“Starting this school year, parents and guardians will be expected to provide the immunization status of their children to their local public health unit. This mandatory reporting of the immunization status of students will ensure the public health system is prepared in the event of an outbreak. Furthermore, with the up-to-date records, public health can reach out to families with children behind on their immunizations and provide an opportunity to catch them up, as well as discuss any concerns with parents.”
Most parents are already in compliance with this requirement, so they will not need to do anything further when the new school year starts in September. Parents or guardians with an incomplete or missing record will be contacted by public health with information about how to provide their child’s immunization history if it is needed, plus receive news about upcoming school-based or community health clinics where their child can receive immunizations if they require them.
Public health officials will review school enrolment records between late August and October 2019 to match them against immunization records for Kindergarten to Grade 12 students that currently exist in the provincial immunization registry. For the first year of the reporting requirement, the goal will be to help parents get their children up-to-date on immunizations by the end of the school year.
Considerable work has already been done, and more is underway, to help prepare for mandatory immunization status reporting. As part of the measles immunization catch-up campaign, health authorities have been reviewing thousands of records in relation to measles vaccinations.
Mandatory reporting of student’s immunization status increases public health’s ability to respond during an outbreak, as it allows health officials to quickly identify those who are under- and unimmunized.
An update on the Province’s measles catch-up program shows that between its launch on April 1, 2019 and May 30, 15,796 doses of measles-containing vaccines have been administered by health authorities to Kindergarten to Grade 12 students. Health authorities have held 858 in-school clinics, as well as 2,388 public health clinics in communities throughout B.C.
The catch-up program’s goal is to immunize children from Kindergarten to Grade 12 who have not previously been immunized against measles, as well as those who may not have received both recommended doses.
In May, health authorities continued to increase immunizations for school-aged children throughout the province, and to review and reconcile students’ immunization records, as well as inform families and schools about the catch-up program. Since the launch of the program, 566,106 students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 have had their immunization records reviewed. As well, parents and guardians of students who have missing or incomplete records have been notified.
Where there is no student information, zero recorded doses, or only one recorded dose and the second dose is overdue, health authorities are asking parents to provide information or take advantage of clinics to get their children immunized. Since the launch of the program, the number of children with no information has decreased by 5,831. Ongoing review and follow-up is underway to further reduce this number.
The number of students now known to have had two doses has increased by 23,876 over the period of the catch-up program due to both record reconciliation and net new immunizations. This overall improvement in both the number of measles immunizations and status information will better position the health system to respond to a measles outbreak.
The catch-up program is part of the government’s plan to increase immunization rates for all vaccine-preventable diseases, educate people about the importance of immunization, and increase the awareness of their immunization status.