A recent increase in whooping cough and measles in our province has a regional Medical Health Officer concerned, and he is reminding parents to make sure their children are immunized so they are not at risk.
“The West Kootenays have had a surge of whooping cough cases in children over the last few weeks, following a large whooping cough outbreak there in 2010,” said Dr. Rob Parker, Medical Health Officer. “We have also seen measles activity this summer in the Lower Mainland, including the worrisome exposure of newborns in a hospital maternity ward in the Fraser Valley. The West Kootenays and the Fraser Valley have some of the lowest childhood immunization rates in the province.”
Both measles and whooping cough can spread quickly and easily among those who aren’t vaccinated. These infections can cause serious consequences for any child, but newborns and infants are at greatest risk. The best way to protect newborns and infants is through high vaccination rates – also known as herd immunity.
“When a large percentage of a population is vaccinated, a disease can’t take hold,” said Dr. Parker. “When childhood immunization rates fall below 90 per cent we start losing the protection offered by herd immunity and this puts unimmunized children and newborns at increased risk. So, it is no surprise that we see recurrent outbreaks of communicable diseases in communities with the lowest immunization rates.”
Dr. Parker recommends that parents review all their children’s immunization records to make sure they are up to date with their shots before the new school year starts. You can find out what vaccine your child needs on ImmunizeBC at http://immunizebc.ca/vaccine-schedules.
“All parents want to do what is best to protect their families, so it is important for them to know that vaccines are safe and that the main side effects such as a sore arm or mild fever are minor and temporary,” adds Dr. Parker. “It does take a village to raise and protect all children. Each parent immunizing their child protects not only them but their friends and neighbours children.”
B.C. has a comprehensive publicly funded immunization program for children and adults that protects against 16 illnesses. Vaccines can be obtained for free from your local public health centre. Several community pharmacies also offer vaccines for children ages five and older.
To learn more about immunizations, visit Immunize BC at http://immunizebc.ca/.