Vancouver continues to be impacted by measles outbreaks. Since the beginning of this year, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) has confirmed that nine measles outbreaks have occurred. While many of us are immunized in kindergarten, a shocking number of Vancouverites continue to remain unvaccinated. The large number of outbreaks has caused vaccination rates in Vancouver to be put under a microscope, and according to the data, Vancouverites are below average when it comes to measles vaccination rates.
According to data provided by Vancouver Coastal Health, Vancouver is below average in measles vaccination rates. VCH has stated that immunization rates must be at 90% in order to provide “herd immunity.” Having a 90% or higher rate of vaccination will allow schools and the community to protect themselves and those who are unable to get vaccinated for various reasons.
Vaccination data is collected every year by VCH from public schools around Vancouver, parents, and primary care providers. Immunizations records are covered for the school grades in which you typically receive vaccinations in including kindergarten, grade six, and grade nine.
According to the data, Vancouver falls short of the 90% herd immunity rate. In 2017/2018 there were 9,381 kindergarten students that were eligible to receive the measles vaccination. Out of those students, only 83.1% received it, making Vancouver significantly below the herd immunity goal.
Out of 127 Metro Vancouver schools listed in the data, only 26 made the cut of having vaccination rates of 90% or higher. Madrona School and Sir Charles Kingsford Smith are the only schools on the list that have 100% measles vaccination rates.
The data provided by VCH goes all the way back to the 2013/2014 school year. Although having an 83.1% measles vaccination rate is low, it is not the lowest Vancouver has seen. In 2016/2017, Vancouver had a 82.5% measles vaccination rate. The largest spike in vaccination rates was in 2014/2015 with 89%, just 1% shy of ideal immunity.
So far, VCH has confirmed nine cases of measles since the beginning of 2019. The first two cases were confirmed by the BC Centre for Disease Control. They stated that the first case was in an adult traveler who was returning from the Philippines. Due to the intricacy and confidentiality of the second confirmed case of the year, it was difficult to tell how the individual contracted the virus as well as how many people they may have impacted.
To put things into perspective, last year there were only six confirmed cases of measles reported among BC residents in the entire year. Of those cases, two were acquired during travel out of Canada, including India and the Philippines respectively. The other four were acquired from “imported cases.”
Earlier this week, VCH issued a release stating that one infected individual visited the BC Children’s Hospital Emergency Department while contagious. Anyone who may have been visiting the emergency department during January 21, 23, 24, and February 1, should contact their doctor.
A spokesperson with VCH has told Narcity that people are most infectious when a rash is present. “The infection period is looking at the rash. Four days before the rash and four days after the rash appears is when the person is most infectious,” said Shaf Hussain.
The measles virus is highly infectious and you do not have to be in close contact with someone who is infected to contract it. According to Vancouver Coastal Health, you could spend only minutes in the same room with someone and contract the virus.
Symptoms of this virus include fever, red eyes which are sensitive to light, cough, runny nose, and of course, a rash. If you believe you may have contracted the virus, it is best to see a doctor immediately. It is also very important to keep yourself away from others as you run the risk of spreading infection. Most people will recover within a week or two of contacting the virus.
For more information on measles and the signs and symptoms, visit the Vancouver Coastal Health website.