As September looms and parents prepare to send their kids back to school, it is important for all children entering kindergarten to get their vaccinations up to date.
“As kids head back to school, it is a perfect time for parents to think about ensuring their children are fully protected against vaccine-preventable diseases,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “Here in B.C., we have a comprehensive publicly funded immunization program for children and adults that protects against 16 diseases.”
While serious childhood diseases such as polio and diphtheria are becoming rarer due to routine childhood vaccination programs, according to VCH Medical Health Officer Dr. Meena Dawar, there’s still cause for concern. “As we saw with the recent measles outbreaks in the Fraser Valley, and on the North Shore and Bowen Island, these diseases are highly infectious and can spread quickly among those who aren’t vaccinated.”
Dawar says that the vaccination rate among kindergarten children has been declining over the last seven years. “There’s been an 11 per cent decrease in Vancouver Coastal Health and five per cent overall in British Columbia. We’re obviously concerned about this trend because vaccinations are the best way to protect children against serious disease.”
It is recommended that all children starting at age four (or five) get their booster shots to protect against polio, tetanus, diphtheria, chicken pox and whooping cough before kindergarten starts in September.
Dawar emphasizes that vaccines, including combined doses, are safe and can pose minor, if any, side effects. “It’s much safer to get the vaccine than to get the disease,” she says. “If parents have any concerns, they should always speak with their doctor or a public health nurse.”
During kindergarten registration parents are asked to submit their child’s immunization record to their school. If someone at school contracts a vaccine-preventable infectious disease, children who are unprotected may be asked to stay home until it is safe to return.
In British Columbia, vaccines can be obtained for free from family doctors or from public health nurses at your local health unit. Many public health units hold special kindergarten immunization clinic prior to school starting – please contact the one in your area for more information. To learn more about immunizations download the booklet Immunization: An important choice you make for your child (PDF) or visit ImmunizeBC for more information.
Fraser Health Authority: list of public health units
Vancouver Coast Health: vaccination clinic schedule
Vancouver Island Health: list of public health units
Northern Health: list of public health units
Interior Health: public health centres
Thank you to the Vancouver Coast Health Authority for providing this great information for families.<