With the school year just around the corner, B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall is encouraging parents to ensure their kids’ vaccinations are up to date.

“Starting off the school year with an up-to-date immunization schedule is a safe and effective way to safeguard your kids from many serious and potentially deadly diseases,” said Kendall in a press release. “By the time a child reaches five or six years old, he or she should have received booster shots that protect against measles, polio, chicken pox, whooping cough and more, and kids in Grades 6 and 9 should receive follow-up vaccinations. This is all part of B.C.’s free, routine immunization program.”

Kendall continued that vaccinations have been successful in greatly reducing the incidences of such diseases, but it is still possible to catch them, even in a developed country such as Canada.

“Many of these diseases seem like distant threats, however, as we’ve seen with recent whooping cough and measles outbreaks, they still exist. They spread quickly among those who are not immunized, can cause serious complications and can be life-threatening,” he said. “This is a busy time of year for parents, but addressing any gaps in your family’s immunization schedule helps prevent these diseases from re-emerging. Your local public health unit or health-care provider can check to see if any shots are missing and book appointments.”

Kendall has added his voice to that of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), calling for mandatory declaration of vaccination when children enrol at school, as is done in Ontario and New Brunswick.

The CMA voted at its annual meeting in late August for other provinces to follow suit, requiring immunization records but allowing exemptions for medical or religious reasons. Doctors also called for development of a national database to pull together records scattered between doctors’ offices and schools.

Those wishing to get free text reminders about immunization for their kids can do so at immunizebc.ca/reminders or those want quick electronic access of immunization records and printable Child Health Passports can download the ImmunizeCA App at immunize.ca/en/app.aspx.

“Providing your children’s immunization records at kindergarten or Grade 1 entry is extremely helpful information for school personnel. If someone at school contracts a vaccine-preventable infectious disease, children who are not immunized may have to stay home until it is safe,” said Dr. Kendall. “Childhood vaccination is safe, effective and free and gives your family a healthy start to the school year. By keeping up-to-date, you’re protecting not only your child, but the whole community.”