Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer believes the province’s immunization policy for children is working and doesn’t need to be drastically changed.
Dr. Saqib Shahab calls the current system comprehensive and robust.
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) recently passed a resolution wanting parents to provide proof of vaccinations to school staff. The CMA is calling on governments to allow elementary and secondary schools to require parents to declare their children’s immunization status.
While close, it’s not quite a push for mandatory vaccinations. That’s something Shahab and his team have been looking at closely.
Instead, he said they’ve strengthened their Grade 1 check. At that point, the vaccine records of kids are examined by a public health nurse. If a child is not up to date on their shots, a meeting is arranged with the family and they’re educated as to the benefits of receiving all shots at the required age. He said there are additional immunizations again in both Grade 6 and Grade 8.
“We keep emphasizing that you have to get all your shots on time for maximum protection,” he said.
Just before kids get to high school, Shahab said 96.5 per cent of them have received their full vaccines against measles and about 90 per cent have been vaccinated against meningitis.
Shahab believes vaccination rates are already quite high in Saskatchewan.
“We think at the moment that process is meeting our needs and is similar to having a parent showing proof of immunization before starting school,” he outlined.
However, he indicated rates for the pertussis vaccine to protect against whooping cough are lower, with only 78 per cent of children receiving all five doses by the age of seven.
While vaccination rates are high, there’s still room for them to get higher. When asked about making shots mandatory, Shahab explained how that might not necessarily be convenient for parents. He said they would all have to go to their public health nurse and obtain documentation.
“We feel that’s placing some extra burden on parents who already are so rushed that they can’t keep their existing appointments,” Shahab said. “At the moment, we feel that the extra amount of work that would entail for both parents and the school system and for public health, we won’t get more gains then where we are at the moment.”
He said if immunization rates started to decline then looking at mandatory vaccinations or parents providing proof of vaccination history are options for consideration.