More British Columbia residents are getting vaccinated against measles this year compared to last, according to information from the provincial Ministry of Health, possibly in response to an ongoing measles outbreak in the province.
“In all of the health authorities, we’re seeing a significant uptick in immunization rates in this period,” Health Minister Adrian Dix told reporters on Thursday.
Numbers from the various health authorities bear this out.
In the Fraser Health Authority, 1,103 doses of the MMR/MMRV vaccine were given out in the week from Feb. 25 to March 3, 2019. That’s more than two and a half times last year’s numbers. Over the same week last year, just 436 doses were administered.
Similarly, Interior Health administered 3,220 doses of the MMR vaccine from Jan. 1 to March 3, 2019, compared to 2,033 over the same period last year.
Island Health more than tripled its vaccinations over a single week this year compared to last. From Feb. 25 to March 4, 2019, it gave out 995 doses of the vaccine compared to 331 over the same period last year.
The measles outbreak in B.C. began in February when an infected traveller brought the disease from overseas. Other cases appeared at a handful of Vancouver elementary schools that had low vaccination rates. There have been a total of 18 cases in B.C. so far this year.
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Data from Vancouver Coastal Health shows that the immunization rate for kindergarten students is just 83.1 per cent — well short of the minimum 90 per cent rate needed to maintain herd immunity.
“I think that, overall, immunization rates in B.C. are lower than they should be,” Dix said. In previous outbreaks, he added, there was “no follow-up.”
This time, he said: “We are taking both practical steps and regulatory steps to increase immunization rates. In other words, it won’t end when the news stories go away.”
The provincial government plans to require parents to register their children’s immunization records at schools by the fall.
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—With files from Jon Azpiri