As parents and children across British Columbia prepare for the start of the new school year on Tuesday, the provincial government is reminding them to make sure their vaccinations are up-to-date.
This school year is the first one since the province introduced regulations requiring parents to report their children's immunization status.
According to the Ministry of Health, most parents are already in compliance with the new requirement. By the end of September, parents will be able to check whether their children's vaccination records are complete by visiting immunizebc.ca.
"Through this new requirement, we are making sure that our public health system is better prepared in the event of another outbreak in schools," said Minister of Health Adrian Dix, in a release.
By keeping a record of the immunization status of all children in kindergarten through Grade 12, the ministry says it will be able to better respond to outbreaks of measles and other diseases. The requirement applies to all school-age children, including those who attend independent schools or are home-schooled.
The mandatory reporting regulation also encourages parents to ensure their children receive their vaccinations on time, according to the ministry.
Between April 1 and June 30, the province held thousands of public health clinics to help ensure that school-aged children are vaccinated against measles. During this "catch-up program," nearly 600,000 students had their records reviewed, the ministry said.
The catch-up program was designed to reverse the tide of falling immunization numbers. Only 82 per cent of seven-year-olds in B.C. were up to date on their measles vaccines in 2018, down from 91 per cent just five years prior.
The province says the number of children recorded as fully immunized against measles has risen by more than 37,000 as a result of these efforts.