The B.C. government has outlined next steps to require parents to provide immunization records to public health units for students enrolled in public and private schools across the province.
“It’s a significant change. The first year will involve engaging with parents and ensure we have a full record,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said.
“We think mandatory reporting makes sense for everyone: for schools, parents and communities.”
The B.C. government announced the registration plan earlier this year following a February measles outbreak in Vancouver. An online petition has more than 57,000 signatures calling for mandatory vaccines in B.C., with medical exemptions.
Parents with missing or incomplete immunization records will be contacted directly by the local health authority. Starting in August, schools will receive immunization records and will contact parents at that point.
Public health officials will review school enrollment records in late August and into October to match them against immunization records for kindergarten-to-Grade 12 students that are already in the provincial immunization registry. For the first year of the reporting requirement will aim to help parents get their children up to date on immunizations by the end of the school year.
The vast majority of families in B.C. are already in compliance and will not have anything to do in September during the busy start of school season.
“Measles is serious and should not be happening this day and age in British Columbia. We need to take extra precautions to ensure our kids are kept safe in the school environment,” Education Minister Rob Fleming said.
“I want to send the message to the vast majority of parents, you are done.”
British Columbia Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has recommended the province move towards mandatory registration.
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.”
Recently, British Columbia has seen a substantial uptick in the number of people who have been vaccinated because of a concerted effort from the provincial government as part of an immunization catch up campaign.
Health authorities across British Columbia administered 15,796 doses of measles-containing vaccines to kindergarten to Grade 12 students from April 1 to May 30.
WATCH (Aired March 20, 2019): B.C. government to offer measles’ vaccines at schools
Based on the new wave of immunizations, 87.6 per cent of school-aged children have received the full two doses of the immunization. Nearly 95 per cent of K-to-12 students have at least one of two doses.
The province is targeting a province-wide immunization rate of 95 per cent. The catch-up campaign kicked off in April with the goal to immunize children, who have not previously been immunized against measles and those who may not have received both recommended doses.
WATCH (February 13, 2019): Current measles outbreak prompts advice to check your immunization status
Health authorities worked with the provincial government to review records for students before putting mandatory registration in place. Since the launch of the program, 566,106 students from kindergarten to Grade 12 have had their immunization records reviewed. Parents and guardians of students who have missing or incomplete records have been notified.
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.