As September looms and parents prepare to send their kids back to school, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is stressing the importance of up-to-date vaccinations for all children entering kindergarten.
“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 in a news release. “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,” said Dawar.
Dawar adds 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.”
VCH medical health officers advise that all children starting at age four 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 said. “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.
Vaccines can be obtained for free from family doctors or from public health nurses at VCH community health centres. For VCH’s kindergarten immunization clinic times visit www.vch.ca. To learn more about immunizations download the booklet Immunization: An important choice you make for your child (PDF).