The B.C. government is rolling out a “catch-up” immunization campaign to fill gaps in measles protection, beginning in April.
Increased immunization has already begun spontaneously after news about the latest outbreak in Vancouver prompted increased visits to doctors and public health clinics in all regions of the province. The target is 95 per cent immunization across the population, after a decline in the rate in recent years.
“We’re taking advantage of real momentum right now,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix. “We know that there are very few people in B.C. who are against vaccines.”
Clinics in schools, public health clinics and mobile clinics in some regions are being prepared for immunization in April, May and June. Part of the program is to help people update their records, as well as making sure children receive two doses of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) as they go through their school years.
Dix said details will be announced later of the mandatory vaccine record check that is expected to be in place next fall for schools. Exemptions for medical or “philosophical reasons” will be available, he said.
Public health officials are seeing a resurgence of measles, particularly in the Philippines and the U.S. There have been 19 confirmed cases in B.C. since January, when infections were detected in Washington state.
The first measles, mumps, rubella vaccine is given to infants at 12 months and children aged four to six. The B.C. health ministry has immunization schedules online.
Measles is highly infectious and spreads through the air by coughing, sneezing and carried on breath. Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, followed a few days later by a rash that starts on the face and spreads to the chest.
As with other infectious illnesses such as influenza, people with measles can infect others before symptoms appear.
Eight measles cases popped up in February among students, staff and family members at a French-language high school in Vancouver. Vancouver Coastal Health officials determined that the infection came to the community from travel outside North America. An earlier case in Vancouver was a man who travelled to the Philippines.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control issued its first warning of the year in late January, after Washington state declared a state of emergency with 32 measles cases during the month.