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

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct the number of seven-year-olds in Interior Health who were up to date with their MMR vaccine in 2018, before the vaccination catch-up program. It was 69.3 per cent not 65.9 per cent as first reported.

British Columbia’s health minister is calling a three-month catch-up blitz to immunize children against the measles a success.

“During the campaign, health authorities alone immunized 27,000 school-aged children,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix.

The blitz came during the final months of the 2018-19 school year.

“The number of school-aged children with two-plus immunizations against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) increased by more than 37,000,” said Dix, “which is an extraordinary success and a tribute to public health nurses, doctors and pharmacists across the province.

“It really is an excellent result; more than we would have expected.”

In the Interior Health Authority region, Dix said there was an increase in excess of 700 per cent in the number of immunizations. In the Kamloops area, it was well over 1,000 per cent.

“Those are areas where we had to increase immunization and that’s exactly what we did,” said Dix.

The numbers translate into more than 4,700 measles vaccines administered across Interior Health in just three months.

The push comes after B.C. experienced a rash of measles cases, including two in the Interior.

“Remember, there are children who, for health reasons, can’t be immunized,” said Dix. “They depend on everyone else immunized for us to achieve a herd immunity rate of 95 per cent.”

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Last year, before the immunization push, 86.9 per cent of two-year-olds in the Interior Health region were up to date with their one-dose MMR shots. But for seven-year-olds, only 69.3 per cent were up to date with their two-dose MMR shots.

The updated numbers aren’t available yet for the Interior Health region. However, the province says by the end of 2019, 88 per cent of school-aged kids in B.C. will be vaccinated with at least two doses, and that 95 per cent will be vaccinated with at least one dose.

“At this point, we are very happy to have been able to get out into the schools,” said Tannis Andersen, manager of public health at Interior Health.

Health officials say they will continue to encourage vaccinations as students return to school in September and mandatory immunization reporting comes into effect.

“It helps us in the case of an outbreak [to] protect children,” said Dix, “which I think is important for everybody.

“No one is going to be excluded from school for not being immunized. But I think it’s important we know who’s immunized and who isn’t.”

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