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Measles immunization programs underway at B.C. schools

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix pauses while speaking at Woodlands Memorial Garden in New Westminster, B.C., on Saturday March 31, 2018.
British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix pauses while speaking at Woodlands Memorial Garden in New Westminster, B.C., on Saturday March 31, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

After weeks of preparation, B.C. schools are now offering immunization vaccines.

Schools in communities under Fraser Health have clinics planned or had them open on Thursday as part of a province-wide blitz to increase immunization levels. The first school clinic was at Byrne Creek Secondary on Thursday.

“Each of the health authorities are putting their plans in place. They are a bit different everywhere. All of them are doing sets of the the same thing,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said.

WATCH (March 20): B.C. government to offer measles’ vaccines at schools

B.C. government to offer measles’ vaccines at schools
B.C. government to offer measles’ vaccines at schools

“They are doing a review of the records. As best as we can we want to focus on those who are under immunized.”

The province is in the midst of sending out consent packages to notify parents of the clinics.

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Dix says there have already been 35 clinics in schools in the Vancouver Coastal Health region. There are 205 clinics scheduled in Fraser Health, 400 clinics scheduled in the Interior in the five weeks following May 1, and 289 clinics set for Vancouver Island.

READ MORE: MMR vaccinations jumped in B.C. after measles outbreak, data shows

“Other clinics are available to children and to the general public. It is a systemic effort across the health authorities to raise immunization rates. We will be reporting regularly on the progress we have made so people can see that,” Dix said.

“When children are immunized it means they are made safe from measles and often their classmates are made safe as well.”

In March, the provincial government announced it was making the measles vaccine available at schools, community health centres, mobile community clinics and public-health units starting in April and going to the end of the school year in June.

Fraser Health has listed dozens of locations for clinics over the next few weeks.

READ MORE: B.C. government to offer measles immunizations in schools starting in April

The province is targeting a province-wide immunization rate of 95 per cent.

“It is our expectation as part of this campaign that every child in B.C. that is not immunized will have the opportunity to be immunized,” Dix said.

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“The goal of the program is to immunize as many children as possible and provide a second dose for those who haven’t received one.”

WATCH (aired March 8, 2019): B.C. measles vaccination rates jump in response to outbreak, health minister says

B.C. measles vaccination rates jump in response to outbreak, health minister says
B.C. measles vaccination rates jump in response to outbreak, health minister says

The measles catch-up program now running is part of a larger plan to have mandatory immunization reporting in B.C. public and independent schools starting in September. More details about that program will be available in May.

Immunization rates have seen a recent boost in British Columbia following a measles outbreak with 27 confirmed cases to date province-wide. Health authorities are expecting more imported cases of measles in the coming months.

READ MORE: B.C. child cancer patient feels good enough to go to school, but has to stay home amid measles outbreak

“There is public momentum now to increase immunization rates. This campaign will build on this momentum. We know there are very few British Columbians who are against vaccines and that parents live busy lives. This is an opportunity to do what needs to be done to make sure all children are protected against a disease that could do them significant harm,” Dix said.

“I encourage all parents to take advantage of this campaign. There are some children who cannot be immunized because of medical conditions and they count on all other children to be immunized.”

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