Disturbing new numbers show that in some areas of Metro Vancouver the number of kids getting vaccinated has fallen to surprisingly low levels, increasing the risk of an outbreak.
University of British Columbia researchers surveyed vaccination rates among kindergarten students across Metro Vancouver and found that some of the lowest rates were found in more affluent areas such as North Vancouver and West Vancouver.
Immunization rates of 90 per cent or above are needed to achieve “herd immunity” within a community or school. Some communities, like Richmond, achieved that. But other communities fell well short of the number needed to protect those who are – for various reasons – unable to get vaccinated themselves.
Compared to Richmond, immunization rates in the West Vancouver/Bowen Island area were 30 per cent lower. North Vancouver was 20 per cent below the 90 per cent baseline, while rates on the Downtown Eastside were 12 percentage points lower.
“Low coverage within schools was observed among both more affluent locations as well as more socio-economically disadvantaged locations, which is a very unusual story when we talk about health,” said Richard Carpiano, the study’s lead author and a professor at UBC’s Dept. of Sociology. “We usually see better health and higher engagement in healthy behaviours in more affluent communities.”
While some more affluent parents are against the idea of vaccinating their children, Carpiano said the number of so-called “anti-vaxxers” is relatively low. He said many affluent families may not have been able to keep up their child’s vaccination schedule or choose not to get a particular vaccine or “may be delaying it for a later time.”
Those clusters of unvaccinated kids are a public health concern, he stressed.
“We may think of vaccinations as a personal choice or a choice for one’s child, but really it’s a collective issue,” Carpiano said. “We also have to be thinking about the safety of our neighbours and other children within our communities.”
“The goal is to ensure that children are up to date when they need to be up to date.”
– With files from Grace Ke