B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix says the province will require parents to register their children’s immunization records at school by the fall, with all students in both public and private schools required to provide proof of immunization against measles and other diseases.
Pressure has been mounting for the provincial government to act after a recent measles outbreak in Vancouver. An online petition has more than 43,000 signatures calling for mandatory vaccines in B.C., with medical exemptions.
“We need to take a series of actions,” Dix said. “What we want to do is go forward with systems that inform and ensure that nobody is not immunized because they forgot.”
British Columbia chief medical officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has recommended the province move towards mandatory registration. All students will have to show their vaccination records at school.
Exemptions will exist for children who cannot receive vaccines due to medical reasons. If a parent does not want a child to receive an immunization because of philosophical reasons, Dix says they “would have to go through a process to state that.”
“I want to be really methodical about this. We have seen a dramatic increase over the last couple of weeks in immunization rates. We are seeing a real impact on the ground,” he said. “We need to make sure the protocols are in place.”
Recently, British Columbia has seen a substantial uptick in the number of people who have been vaccinated as 13 cases of measles have been reported so far in the ongoing outbreak in Vancouver.
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The main goal of vaccination registration is to provide education to parents about vaccines and how they have been proven successful in eradicating diseases.
“My recommendation is that there should be some steps. For example, if you have a medical exemption or medical reason that you can’t be immunized, then that needs to be certified by a physician and, I would suggest, reviewed by a public health official in your area,” Henry said.
“If you have a philosophical reason, then yes, I do think there needs to be an education process, whether that’s taking a module or having a structured (discussion) with a clinician — either the medical health officer or designate — and then an official form signed saying you recognize the risks of not immunizing your child.”
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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 that following the Fraser Valley outbreak, the area had one of the highest rates of immunization in the province without any policy changes.
“I think we need to make the long-term changes, which includes where we are succeeding and where we are not,” Dix said. “There are areas of the province where immunization rates are higher and areas where they are not.”