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Interior measles vaccination rates still below target following catch-up campaign

Interior doesn’t hit herd immunity target in measles vaccine catch-up campaign
WATCH: Newly-released data shows that the Interior Health region continues to miss the mark when it comes to measles immunization.

Newly-released data shows that the Interior Health region continues to miss the mark when it comes to measles immunization.

After last school year’s vaccination blitz, the percentage of Interior kids who have been fully vaccinated continues to fall well short of the 95 per cent herd immunity target.

More than 27,000 vaccines were administered to B.C. kids over the three-month immunization catch up blitz at the end of last school year.

READ MORE: Measles cases continue to spike around the world, WHO says

In the Interior Health region, the result was a 2.8 per cent increase in the number of kids aged one to 18 with at least one dose of the measles vaccine.

By the end of the catch-up program, just over 84.5 per cent of kids and teens in the health region had received at least one immunization for the virus, still well below the 95 per cent heard immunity target.

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However, from the health authority’s perspective, it’s still a success.

Catch-up blitz to immunize Interior students against measles a success: B.C. health minister
Catch-up blitz to immunize Interior students against measles a success: B.C. health minister

“To see an increase of between 2.5 and 3.5 per cent across the health authority is a really positive outcome,” Dr. Trevor Corneil Interior Health’s chief medical health officer said.

“We are quite excited about the lessons learned from that campaign.”

Measles immunization catch-up campaign results.
Measles immunization catch-up campaign results. Interior Health

READ MORE: 24 children dead as Samoa’s measles outbreak worsens

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By age seven, the recommendation is that kids have received two doses of measles containing vaccine.

Interior Health data released to Global News through a Freedom of Information request shows that as of October 2019, only 70.3 per cent of seven-year-olds in the Okanagan had both the recommended shots.

Meanwhile, 86.1 per cent of Okanagan 2-year-olds were up-to-date with one shot.

Corneil said while 95 per cent coverage remains the goal health officials can live with a lower target.

“From a practical perspective we like to see more than 85 per cent [vaccination] in any given population. We know that that will provide reasonable coverage and reasonable protection for that particular group,” Corneil said.

READ MORE: B.C. measles ‘catch-up’ program delivers 106% jump in vaccinations in April

“We are close to that in most of our regions. We are going to be pushing for 95 per cent in the years to come.”

To try and reach that goal, the health authority is trying to make vaccinations more accessible by implementing automated reminder calls for appointments and looking at extending clinic hours.

A letter from the health authority also went home with school-aged children earlier this month, telling parents that officials will be collecting students’ immunization records for a centralized registry. It’s another step aimed at connecting un-vaccinated kids with clinics.

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READ MORE: Single new case of measles confirmed in 100 Mile House, 18 total cases in B.C.

Delay in releasing data

Data from July about how the April to June measles immunization catch-up campaign impacted Interior Health immunization rates was released to Global News on Wednesday.

Interior Health has yet to provide an official explanation as to why the statistics, dated July 4, 2019, were not provided in response to three Global News requests for that data in late-July, August and September.

At the time of the initial request in late-July, a media relations staff member told Global News the data was not finalized.