Improving measles immunization rates to prevent outbreaks

With measles circulating internationally, Island Health is encouraging everyone to ensure their routine immunizations are up to date to lift collective immunization rates this National Immunization Awareness Week (April 22 to 30).

Measles is a highly contagious virus which people can pass on before they show symptoms. The virus can spread through the air and can remain in a room for several hours after the infected person has left. Those most at risk from measles infection are those who are completely unvaccinated for measles and have not had the infection. Approximately 95 per cent of a population must be immune to prevent outbreaks, which is why ensuring immunizations are up to date is so important.

In B.C., measles vaccine is given as a series of two doses. The first dose is given as the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine on a child's first birthday and the second dose is given around the time of starting school as the measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (MMRV) vaccine. Across the Island Health region, 10 per cent of seven-year-olds have not received any doses of measles-containing vaccine, and 18 per cent have only received one dose.

Publicly-funded vaccines (free of charge for B.C. residents) can be accessed through a primary care provider, pharmacist or your local health unit. Improving access to childhood vaccines is one of Island Health’s key goals. Following a successful pilot last year to increase immunization rates by administering vaccines in schools, over the next few weeks and months Public Health Nurses will be visiting select schools to immunize kids in kindergarten and grade 1. Parents and caregivers will be consulted via a letter home from school. 

To view the schedules for immunizations, visit Immunize BC. People 12 years and older can access their immunization records through the Health Gateway and BC Services Card app. Parents with children 11 years and younger can add their child as a dependent to see their immunization history.

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