The measles outbreaks in Vancouver and Washington State haven’t spread to the Interior, but that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t be concerned.
“We do not have any confirmed cases of measles in the Interior,” said Dr. Sylvina Mema, a medical health officer with Interior Health. Still, she said, the outbreaks in Vancouver and Washington State present a good opportunity to remind people about the need for immunization, not only for measles but other communicable diseases covered under the B.C. vaccination schedule.
The message IH wants to get out, she explained, is that the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones against measles is to ensure vaccinations are up to date.
“We don’t want people here to panic. We want everybody to get up to date with their immunizations,” said Mema. “The outbreak in Vancouver, as far as we know, has been contained.”
It’s not uncommon to investigate people for measles, she said, especially people who have travelled to parts of the world where the disease is still endemic. But according to Interior Health records, there hasn’t been a case of measles in the IH region for eight years.
In 2010 there was an outbreak with 14 cases, and in 2011, there was another with seven cases.
Mema said the immunization rate for two-year-olds averages 86 per cent across the Interior Health region, which she describes as good, but not as high as they would like to see.
“We would like to have 95 per cent and we are working on that,” said Mema. “It (86 per cent) could be improved, but it is good.”
Mema said there seems to be a range of reasons why people don’t have themselves or their children’s immunized, including not knowing and not having time.
“And some people will be on the fence; they don’t know if vaccines are effective,” said Mema, adding that people can get all their questions answered by Interior Health nurses at local public health centers.
Then there are the people who refuse vaccinations, that “anti-vaxxers.”
“Vaccines are safe and effective, but sometimes people will object and not immunize,” said Mema. “There is a number of individuals that will not be open to hearing the messages we have.”
For those, she said, they don’t engage in an argument.
“It doesn’t take us to anywhere productive,” said Mema, adding that Interior Health has ongoing education campaigns to elevate awareness of the safety and need for immunization. “Having an outbreak so close provide us with an extra boost for people to connect with Interior Health and get immunized.”
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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