Revelstoke is roughly 20 per cent below the provincial average for immunization rates.
According to Interior Health, immunization rates for seven-year-olds is hovering around 50 per cent, while the provincial average is 70 per cent.
“This is certainly below what we want to see,” said Jonathon Spence, manager of the IH communicable disease unit.
He said the Revelstoke rate has neither decreased or increased the last few years.
Interior Health monitors vaccination rates every three months.
One caveat with this statistic, noted Spence, is that it only counts seven-year-olds known to IH.
So in growing communities like Revelstoke, said Spence, the immunization rate is usually higher than reported for as children from out-of-province move to Revelstoke, IH has a record of them moving here but not if they have been immunized or not.
Regardless, immunization rates are declining across Canada. They are many reasons for the decrease, said Spence, which include hesitancy in communities towards vaccines, personal choice and simply because it is not a priority for parents.
Immunizing is important, said Spence, because “it’s about protecting your kid.”
General immunization in B.C. refers to being inoculated against 14 different diseases, such as diphtheria, chickenpox and Hepatitis B.
Not only do vaccinations protect the vaccinated, but they prevent spreading diseases to individuals who cannot be immunized, whether for health or allergy reasons.
“(Vaccinations) protect the whole community,” said Spence.
Spence feels that one of the main reasons why immunization rates are dropping—because parents believe vaccines are no longer needed—is because “we’re getting further and further from people who know what it’s like to have diseases like polio.”
Polio is a crippling and deadly infectious disease and infects the brain and spinal cord, causing paralysis.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S., the polio vaccine protects almost 100 per cent of children that are vaccinated. Recently, some children have been hospitalized with polio-like symptoms in Toronto.
Ultimately, Interior Health would like the immunization rate to be above 95 per cent.
“We have work to do,” Spence acknowledged.
In regards to the low vaccination rate, Mike Hooker, superintendent of the Revelstoke school district, said the school district’s priority is ensuring the community has access to information when it comes to inoculations and where to get vaccines.
This year, the district developed a personal information directory, which manages personal information. Hooker said the directory is part of a provincial plan to coordinate record keeping so school districts will have access to immunization records that were not available in the past, however individual’s privacy would still be protected.
The province has launched a measles immunization catch-up program aimed for children from kindergarten to Grade 12 who have not previously been immunized against measles.
Revelstoke also has a low measles vaccination rate at around 60 per cent, whereas the provincial average is 82 per cent for seven-year-olds.
Almost 30 cases of measles have been identified in the province this year, up from nine in 2018.
There will be a catch-up campaign in Revelstoke in May at the schools and public health unit, but Interior Health has not confirmed the dates. Another clinic will follow in June.
Adults can get their immunizations at local pharmacies.