Mandatory immunization status reporting for children coming to B.C.
Published Friday, June 28, 2019 11:24AM PDT Last Updated Friday, June 28, 2019 6:52PM PDT
It's only been a few months since Stefania Seccia’s family experienced a scare she recalls as one of the worst moments of her life, all due to a measles outbreak.
Her son Max Seccia-Smith, who was about to celebrate his first birthday, ended up in temporary quarantine at his Burnaby home in February after a possible exposure to the highly contagious virus during a visit to BC Children's Hospital.
"He shouldn't have had to go through that. We shouldn't have had to experience that," Seccia said.
It's why she's now encouraged by the province's decision to make reporting of school-age children’s immunization status to public health mandatory.
"I think it's a really positive step forward," she said.
Provincial health minister Adrian Dix said the new regulation comes into effect July 1st, in time for the next school year this fall, and added it will not mean students who are under-vaccinated or unvaccinated will be excluded from school.
"It allows us to engage with people and engage with parents rather than have a hostile relationship," Dix said.
However, he is not ruling out taking additional measures following the first year of the program. Dix said the province is "actively considering" an approach like Ontario's, where parents who seek an exemption from vaccinations for their children on the basis of their beliefs are required to take part in an education session.
"First you have to have all the records in place," Dix said.
Over the summer, health units will be cross-referencing enrollment lists with immunization records. Education Minister Rob Fleming said the majority of parents whose children are fully immunized will not have to do anything.
"For those that have incomplete or missing records they'll be contacted by public health," Fleming said.
Stephen Hoption Cann, chair of UBC's Clinical Research Ethics board, said mandatory reporting can help public health identify those who aren’t properly protected during an outbreak.
"I think it's an important step. There's a lot of countries considering this sort of centralized record-keeping for vaccination, and even if you don’t go down the road of making things mandatory, it's very useful information," Hoption Cann said.
For Seccia, anything that may help boost herd immunity is critical.
"No one should face their child contracting a disease that shouldn't be an issue anymore," she said.
Her son never became ill, and is now 16-months old. At the time of his possible exposure, he was awaiting his first measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine, which is given at 12 months. Seccia said he was also born prematurely and needed surgery to remove an abdominal blockage at two months. She said the scare meant she had to face another potentially serious threat to his health, all before he turned one.
"It was really unfair, and I think the fact that it derived, or was the result of a really reckless decision was really, really difficult for us as well," she said.
"I wish that on no one."