Are your child’s immunizations up to date?

February 15, 2024

Interior Health (IH) is reminding parents about the importance of childhood immunizations while making it easier for families to get caught up, as many children are unimmunized or under-immunized.

 

Interior Health data shows declining immunization rates for children. While the majority of parents believe that childhood vaccines are safe and effective**, there are many reasons for the decrease in rates including concerns or questions sparked by online misinformation, limited time in today’s busy schedules, or simply forgetting.

 

“Interior Health is taking steps to help busy families get their children’s immunizations up to date,” said IH Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Martin Lavoie. “Vaccines give infants and children the best protection from more than a dozen diseases that can be severe, can lead to serious complications, and in some cases can even be fatal."

 

As of Dec. 31, 2023, 56.3 per cent of seven-year-olds were immunized, which is well below the IH target of 70 per cent necessary to prevent disease transmission. The rate for two-year-olds is 68.5 per cent, significantly below the 90 per cent target for that age group*.

 

Taking action

To help address these low rates this year, extra clinics for immunization services will be introduced at community health centres; Kindergarten clinics are being piloted in some schools; and mobile immunization services will bring these services to select rural communities. In addition, students in Grade 10 - 12 can drop into clinics at school to get caught up on routine immunizations they have missed and ask public health nurses any questions they may have.

 

“Many people have questions – that is understandable. As health professionals we are here to help everyone understand potential side effects, vaccine effectiveness, and the consequences of not being vaccinated, and help families make informed decisions,” said IH Medical Health Officer Dr. Fatemeh Sabet.

 

To increase awareness IH is launching a new campaign that emphasizes the safety and effectiveness of childhood immunizations and the dangers of vaccine-preventable diseases, with testimonials from local health-care professionals and parents.

 

Routine childhood immunizations are free of charge and easy to get; caregivers can book an appointment at a Child Health Clinic at their local public health centre. If a child has missed a vaccine, public health staff can help get them caught up. To view the schedules for infant, child and teen immunizations, and to see the list of vaccines included in routine immunizations, visit Immunize BC.

 

Risks of low immunization rates

Current immunization rates are concerning because these diseases still occur and can spread easily. For example, measles cases have been reported in four U.S. states, including Washington, in 2024; a person in Alberta who was diagnosed with measles in November 2023 had recently travelled through B.C.; and there is currently a major outbreak of measles in Birmingham, England. Additionally, there have been outbreaks in many African and Asian countries. Over the last six months, B.C. has seen cases of pertussis (whooping cough) in multiple areas of the Interior region, and in Summer 2023 there was a pertussis outbreak in southern Manitoba.

 

Their best shot

Castlegar-based family physician and mom Dr. Erin Charman is happy to be among those featured in the IH awareness campaign. "I thought this was a great chance to share the importance of childhood immunizations and to help parents protect their children," she said.

 

“I wanted to participate in the childhood immunization campaign because as a parent and community member I witness a lot of misinformation online. I want parents to know where to find accurate information to make an informed decision and know that they can contact public health at any time with their questions or concerns. We’re here to help,” said Kelowna public health nurse Ashley Stone.

 

To learn more and watch videos from the campaign visit interiorhealth.ca/theirbestshot.

Background

Health Service Delivery Area immunization rates*

2-year-olds (target 90%):

  • IH-wide: 68.5%
  • East Kootenay: 71.9%
  • Kootenay Boundary: 66.6%
  • Okanagan: 68%
  • Thompson Cariboo Shuswap: 68.7%

7-year-olds (target 70%):

  • IH-wide: 56.3%
  • East Kootenay: 64.7%
  • Kootenay Boundary: 54.8%
  • Okanagan: 53.2%
  • Thompson Cariboo Shuswap: 58.6%

Learn more about Health Service Delivery Areas

*Immunization coverage data sourced from the Provincial Immunization Registry.

**2021 Childhood National Immunization Coverage Survey, Public Health Agency of Canada.

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