Mandatory proof of vaccinations planned for B.C. schools this fall
Amid a measles outbreak in the Lower Mainland, the B.C. government is moving ahead with a plan to require all students to provide proof of immunization starting next year.
The plan — being referred to as mandatory registration — was recommended by the province’s top doctor, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
She says similar systems already operate in Ontario and New Brunswick, and it would make children in British Columbia safer.
"It seems to be effective in increasing the community immunity, the number of children who are up to date," Henry told CTV News.
B.C. health minister Adrian Dix said the goal is to have the plan in place for September 2019.
Dix made a passionate pitch to his fellow MLAs when introducing the plan Tuesday.
"Being immunized is not just important for your child, it’s important for children who for medical reasons cannot be immunized. It is our public responsibility," he said.
The plan was triggered by the recent measles outbreak that has infected 13 people on the Lower Mainland.
An outbreak has not hit Vancouver Island, but the problems in Metro Vancouver have led to a surge in the number of people getting their measles vaccinations on the Island.
In the past three weeks, 1,473 people got their measles vaccination — an increase of 542 people from the same period last year.
Dix hopes to capitalize on that trend.
"There is an opportunity to use that momentum to get more people immunized," he said.
Students can still be exempt from immunizations, whether for medical reasons or because of family beliefs.
Henry proposes an education program for those who decline to get their shots.
"We need to have an exemption for people who don’t believe in it, but there needs to be a process that makes that not particularly easy," she said.
Dix says the program can be implemented through new regulations, and thinks this upcoming school year is a realistic goal.