Health

Nearly Half of Victoria Seven-Year-Olds Not Up-to-Date on Immunizations

Victoria and Salt Spring Island show rock-bottom rates of childhood vaccination

Health

Nearly Half of Victoria Seven-Year-Olds Not Up-to-Date on Immunizations

Victoria and Salt Spring Island show rock-bottom rates of childhood vaccination

Health

Nearly Half of Victoria Seven-Year-Olds Not Up-to-Date on Immunizations

Victoria and Salt Spring Island show rock-bottom rates of childhood vaccination

Nearly Half of Victoria Seven-Year-Olds Not Up-to-Date on Immunizations
Illustration by The Capital

The previous year has seen a rash of preventable disease outbreaks striking Vancouver Island. In March, a case of whooping cough was confirmed at Victoria’s Mount Douglas Secondary School. A measles outbreak struck Greater Victoria in May. In September, a “cluster” of mumps cases were identified in the Tofino area.

And according to immunization data provided to The Capital by the Island Health Authority, Victoria continues to remain particularly vulnerable should more outbreaks flare up.

As of the most recent data from 2018, only 56% of seven-year-old children in Victoria were found to be up-to-date on six categories of vaccines; measles, mumps, rubella (German measles), varicella (chickenpox), hepatitis B and D/T/aP/IPV (diphtheria, acellular pertussis, tetanus, polio).

Immunization uptake at seven years old

Percentage of seven-year-old children who met the up-to-date immunization requirements for D/T/aP/IPV (diphtheria/acellular pertussis/tetanus/polio), measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, and hepatitis B. Data from 2018.

This is well below the 69% average for Southern Vancouver Island. It’s also unusually low as compared to neighbouring municipalities. Saanich is at 69% and the Peninsula is at 73%.

Victoria is still not quite the least vaccinated area in the region, however. That title goes to Salt Spring Island, where a mere 49% of seven-year-olds are up to date on immunizations.

The numbers highlight the Capital Region as being one of many unvaccinated hotspots in a province that has been struggling for years with dangerously low levels of vaccine coverage for preventable childhood diseases. As of 2018, only 70% of B.C. seven-year-olds were up to date on shots.

The rate is well below Health Canada’s goal of 95% immunization. It’s at that rate that a population can be assured of “herd immunity”; essentially, so few people become capable of transmitting a disease that outbreaks are never able to take hold.

Herd immunity is particularly important for people who are medically unable to be vaccinated, including those with severe allergies or anybody who has recently received a blood transfusion. In 2018, the only disease for which Vancouver Island seven-year-olds had attained herd immunity was for rubella.

And Southern Vancouver Island vaccination rates appear to be trending down further still. Measles vaccinations in particular appear to have fallen off a cliff on Southern Vancouver Island, going from 90% in 2017 to only 80% in 2018. Chickenpox inoculations have similarly plummeted from 93% in 2012 to only 73% in 2018.

Percentage of seven-year-olds with up-to-date immunizations

Percentage of seven-year-old children, by health service delivery area, who met the up-to-date immunization requirements for D/T/aP/IPV (diphtheria/acellular pertussis/tetanus/polio), measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, and hepatitis B. Data from 2018.

The good news, however, is that British Columbians have been found to be eager to respond to vaccination drives prompted by recent outbreaks. In April, B.C. launched a “catch-up” drive to boost measles immunization among schoolchildren, and within one month could report 13,515 new immunizations.

September also saw the launch of a new program requiring parents to provide immunization records for all children enrolled in the B.C. public school system. In the event of an outbreak, the records would allow public health officials to bar unvaccinated children from school in order to prevent a disease’s spread.

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