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B.C. government considers requiring students to register measles immunizations

Measles outbreak affecting more people
WATCH: The measles outbreak in Vancouver is now affecting 36 students and staff at three French language schools. Sarah MacDonald has the latest, including what health experts say about getting vaccinated.

The B.C. government is looking at requiring parents to register with schools whether they have vaccinated their children or not.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says Ontario and New Brunswick have a registration system now with exemptions for children who can be vaccinated for medical or other reasons.

“That issue has been considered in the past and is obviously under active consideration,” Dix said.

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“The public health authority in the case of three schools has taken the action of excluding some adults and students and they have that power now.”

READ MORE: Vancouver measles outbreak puts spotlight on low vaccination rates at many local schools

Vancouver Coastal Health says it has dealt with nine confirmed cases of measles in 2019, eight of them linked to a trio of Francophone schools in Vancouver.

On Tuesday, the health authority said at least 36 students and staff members from the three schools affected are currently not attending classes because the students are either not vaccinated or don’t have proof of vaccination.

There are no jurisdictions in Canada that require vaccinations for students. Dix says the previous government considered registration for students and decided not to go forward.

British Columbia has had measles outbreaks before including 343 reported cases in 2014 and 87 cases in 2010.

Dix says following the Fraser Valley outbreak, the area became one of the highest areas for immunization in the province without any policy changes.

“I really encourage people to immunize,” Dix said. “We really don’t understand how important something is until it happens.”

WATCH: Measles outbreak in Vancouver

Measles outbreak in Vancouver
Measles outbreak in Vancouver

The provincial government is also considering using the school system as a way to get people vaccinated. Education Minister Rob Fleming says there are some parents who don’t get their kids shots because of reasons beyond religious and medical.

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“Utilizing the school system to get our immunization rate up is something we should consider,” Fleming said.

Health officials say an immunization rate of 90 per cent is needed to provide “herd immunity.”

READ MORE: Low vaccination rates mean the Okanagan is not immune to measles, experts say

Data from Vancouver Coastal Health show that measles immunization rates of kindergarten students at Metro Vancouver schools fall short of that mark.

According to VCH data, the vaccination rate for measles across all kindergarten students in the VCH region is just 83.1 per cent. In 2013-14, the kindergarten vaccination rate was 88.4 per cent.

Of the 127 schools in the City of Vancouver, only 27 have kindergarten measles immunization rates of 90 per cent or higher.

But Fleming says schools haven’t been able to put in registrations now in part because they can’t ensure fairness across the province.

“You have to look at capacity. Can this be done equitably across the country? Is the health authority in the position to respond?” Fleming said.

— with files from Jon Azpiri