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Vaccination registry needed in Nova Scotia says chief medical officer

Dr. Robert Strang doesn't believe the province is in a position to require children to be vaccinated before being allowed to attend school
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Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health doesn't believe the province is in a position to require children to be vaccinated before being allowed to attend school.

Many jurisdictions are having the conversation after recent outbreaks of measles in several pockets of North America. The disease is highly contagious and can cause serious complications in 20 per cent of cases.

Ontario requires primary and secondary school students to have proof of immunizations for designated diseases, including measles, whooping cough and polio. Children going to school for the first time in New Brunswick also need to provide proof, but the province does allow exemptions based on medical issues or reasons of religious belief or conscience.

Dr. Robert Strang said if Nova Scotia were to implement a similar policy, the province would need a better system for monitoring immunizations.

"Many families don't know their vaccination status, they haven't kept records, their family doctor doesn't have great records," he told NEWS 95.7's The Rick Howe Show.

"In the past, public health has tried to get vaccination information at preschool. Most of what we relied on was parents' recall ... so frankly we don't have a good basis on which to determine whether a child truly has received their vaccine or not."

Strang believes Nova Scotia needs a vaccination registry to better track data in the province.

"So when somebody's immunized, that's entered electronically and we have a way to collate all that information and have an accurate understanding of overall immunization rates," he explained. 

He said, in the event of an outbreak, that data would help them determine which areas are vulnerable due to low vaccination levels.

British Columbia has been dealing with an outbreak of measles, with at least 17 reported cases in the Vancouver area. The disease was officially declared eradicated in Canada in 1998.

On Tuesday, Canada's chief public health officer issued a statement expressing her concern that vaccine-preventable diseases are making a comeback.

"Seeds of doubt are often planted by misleading, or worse, entirely false information being spread in campaigns that target parents on social media and the internet," said Dr. Theresa Tam. "It is no wonder some parents are confused and concerned."

Stang said only a very small percentage of the population is truly anti-vaccination, but they are effectively spreading their message.

He said public health officials can combat this by doing a better job of dispensing accurate information and reducing barriers to accessing health care.

In the spring of 2017, Nova Scotia had two reported clusters of measles, but Strang said, in both cases there was limited spread of the disease.

"I think the fact that it didn't spread broadly into the community, given how infectious measles is, is somewhat of a reassuring sign we have fairly high levels of immunity in Nova Scotia."




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Meghan Groff

About the Author: Meghan Groff

Born in Michigan, raised in Ontario, schooled in Indiana & lives in Nova Scotia; Meghan is the community editor for HalifaxToday.ca.
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