With communicable diseases such as whooping cough

With communicable diseases such as whooping cough

Mandatory vaccination records urged for schools

The Canadian Medical Association, calling for mandatory declaration of vaccination when children enrol at school.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall added his voice to that of the Canadian Medical Association, calling for mandatory declaration of vaccination when children enrol at school, as is done in Ontario and New Brunswick.

The CMA voted at its annual meeting in late August for other provinces to follow suit, requiring immunization records but allowing exemptions for medical or religious reasons. Doctors also called for development of a national database to pull together records scattered between doctors’ offices and schools.

Kendall emphasized that vaccinations themselves would not be mandatory, but the information would give schools the ability to protect students when an outbreak happens. That means excluding unvaccinated children from school during an outbreak, and offering parents the chance to fill gaps in their protection.

“Unvaccinated children are at risk themselves, but they also pose a risk to others because they create a gateway into the community,” Kendall told CKNW radio this week. “So we need the concept of herd immunity, where we get 95 per cent of the population of a cohort of children vaccinated, so it’s much harder for disease to spread in the community.”

Vaccine records also give public health authorities a chance to counter misinformation that has proliferated in recent years, he said.

“If we know who the parents of those children are, we can talk with them and tell them the facts and what is real and what is not real, and hopefully convince a good proportion of them that what they’re actually fearing is either unreal or not scientifically valid, or is in fact a misplaced fear,” Kendall said. “And we would hope that we would get some of those parents at least to get their children vaccinated.”

Parents in B.C. can now sign up for free text message reminders at immunizebc.ca/reminders, and the website also offers a smartphone app.