Measles. Mumps. Rubella. Sound familiar? These are just a few of the diseases from which B.C. kids are protected against by routine childhood vaccinations.
But in the past year and a half, Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist Anoop Khurana said that many parents have fallen behind. A Shoppers Drug Mart survey found that 10 per cent of parents missed routine immunizations last year and that 18 per cent aren’t sure if they’ll get their kids their shots before the school year starts.
Much of that, Khurana told Black Press Media, is because of the pandemic.
“Obviously, health and safety to prevent the risk of exposure to COVID-19 has been on the forefront of every parent’s mind,” Khurana said. “So it’s been harder to do the routine appointments that parents are used to.”
But now, with more than 70 per cent of eligible British Columbians fully vaccinated, Khurana said that the risk of children has lessened, even if many too young to be vaccinated against COVID.
While many routine vaccinations are aimed at babies and toddlers, there’s an entire set of recommended immunizations for children about to enter kindergarten: the measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chickenpox) shot (MMRV) and the tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis and polio (Tdap) shot.
“Those are really important to be vaccinated because those illnesses are quite serious if you don’t get the proper protection,” Khurana said. For older children, a variety of boosters including against tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, meningitis and varicella, as well as the human papillomavirus (HPV) are recommended.
Many of these diseases, such polio, have not been transmitted in B.C. for decades. Others like measles are largely under control but rely on herd immunity to stay that way, Khurana said.
The province struggled with a large measles outbreak in 2014, when 343 cases were identified. The B.C. Centre for Disease Control said the vast majority of those were tired to members of the Netherlands Reformed community in the Eastern Fraser Valley, which has low levels of vaccination. The virus came via travel from the Netherlands, where a large outbreak of more than 2,600 cases began in mid-2013 and continued for nearly a year.
There were also 31 cases of measles in B.C. in 2019, largely linked to travel but acquired separately.
Khurana said that many of these diseases, including meningitis and tetanus, can be life-threatening.
“As a parent, why would you want to put your child at risk?”
Routine vaccinations are paid for by the province, he added, even if a family has fallen behind.
“That’s called the catch-up vaccination program,” Khurana said. “It’s never too late to get a vaccine in this series.”
He added that it’s normal for parents, who have spent more than a year worrying about the pandemic, to be anxious making decisions about the health of their child but that’s it’s important to know that these diseases can be “extremely serious” for children.
If families have questions or concerns, he added, they should talk to a pharmacist or their health-care professional to get answers and learn which vaccines their children may need. To learn how to locate your child’s immunization record, visit: https://immunizebc.ca/tips-locating-immunization-records.