(Island Health/Facebook)

After a total of 9 measles cases were recorded in Vancouver so far this year prompting the local health authority to declare an outbreak, Victorians have been wary of the disease spreading to the island.

In fact, many people shared a news story about a measles outbreak in Victoria from 2014. Since the video did not have a date stamp, several people assumed that the disease has indeed made its way across the Strait, prompting Island Health to debunk the rumours on social media.

“At this time there are no lab-confirmed cases of Measles on Vancouver Island,” said the organization on Facebook.

Nevertheless, the outbreak is close enough to home for VIHA to issue immunization tips – for example, if you were born between 1970 and 1994 or grew up outside of B.C. you may need a second dose of the MMR (measles) vaccine.

The conversation about vaccination and the anti-vaccination movement is now at the forefront of BC health-related news because of the measles outbreak in Vancouver.

So we decided to take a look at the immunization rates for the MMR vaccine in BC and Vancouver Island.

Significant drop

A report by the BC Centre for Disease Control entitled ‘Immunization Uptake in Children by the Seventh Birthday’ records the percentage of 7-year-old children in each health authority/region of the province that has received various vaccines.

Here are the statistics for British Columbia, Vancouver Island Health Authority, and the Southern Vancouver Island region between 2012 and 2018:

(BC CDC)
(BC CDC)
(BC CDC)

As shown in these tables, the immunization rate in 7-year-old children on Vancouver Island has decreased by 12-13% on Vancouver Island, and by 7% in B.C. within a 6 year span.

However according to the report, this decline can be explained, at least partially, by an immunization schedule change that occurred in 2012.

Explanation

In January 2012, the province’s immunization schedule changed to introduce a second dose of the varicella vaccine as a combined measles/mumps/rubella/varicella (MMRV) vaccine at school entry (4 – 6 years of age)

This replaced the 18-month measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) dose. The first group of children affected by this change in schedule were those born in July 2010.

“The change in immunization schedule may have resulted in fewer opportunities to provide the second dose of MMR containing vaccine prior to the seventh birthday, explaining the drop in measles and mumps coverage in 2018,” says the report.

Moreover, delays or failure to vaccinate children on Vancouver Island have also been attributed to parents’ busy schedules.

According to Island Health Medical Health Officer, Dr. Dee Hoyano, most parents on the island do understand the importance of vaccinating their kids.

“We know that there are some parents who are choosing not to vaccinate their children, or delaying vaccinations because of misinformation they are getting from “anti-vaccination” sources,” Dr. Hoyano told Victoria Buzz.

“However, the vast majority of parents are vaccinating because they want to protect their children and protect their community. Based on my observations, most families who are not up to date with their children’s vaccines are delayed because of challenges in finding the time to vaccinate, and making it a priority in an otherwise busy family life.”

The MMR vaccine is provided by any of the locations provided at this website, your family doctor, many pharmacists (for children 5 and over), and travel clinics.

Those who are unsure about their immunization history are asked to contact the public health authority at which they received their vaccines.

If you have questions about vaccination, Island Health encourages you to contact your local public health unit.

Follow BC CDC on Twitter for updates of the situation on the mainland.

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