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Parents should update vaccine records as measles cases rise, CISSSO says

by Guillaume Laflamme
Mar. 13, 2024
The infectious disease specialist with the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l’Outaouais (CISSSO) is requesting parents in Western Quebec update their childrens’ vaccination records to help public health authorities gain a better sense of vaccination rates in the region as measles cases rise in the province.
Since the beginning of 2024, Quebec has logged 12 cases of the highly infectious disease. Nine of those cases have been in Montreal. In 2023, Canada reported a total of 12 cases across the country.
As case numbers rise in Canada, and around the world, experts are reminding everyone to check their vaccinations against the disease and update them if necessary.
“It’s very, very contagious,” said Dr. Carol McConnery, infectious disease specialist with CISSS de l’Outaouais, explaining that a single case in a school is considered an outbreak because of how quickly the virus spreads.
She said that while at this time there are no confirmed cases in the Outaouais, that could change quickly.
Dr. McConnery explained that vaccination rates for measles in the province of Quebec are not at 95 per cent, which is the recommended coverage rate according to the Government of Canada’s website.
“We know that our coverage [across the province] is not at 95 per cent. So, although we’re saying it’s only 12 cases, that can go up really rapidly.”
Dr. McConnery said average vaccine coverage for schools in the Outaouais area is about 85 per cent.
“[The] CISSS de l’Outaouais with the public health department, the CLSC and the vaccination center is being mobilized as we speak to organize some vaccinations that will take place in some schools in the next week.”
According to Dr. McConnery, a lot of children in the Western Quebec region have received their vaccines in Ontario but have not updated their vaccination records in Quebec, causing difficulties in calculating vaccination rates.
“I’m asking parents who have had their immunization in Ontario and have the records [to go] to the CLSC and have their measles vaccine and all the vaccines registered into the Quebec registry.”
According to the Government of Quebec’s website, measles is a serious and highly contagious airborne disease which spreads when an infected person breathes, coughs, sneezes, or speaks.
It remains a major cause of death among children globally but has a safe and effective vaccine available.
According to Dr. McConnery, there is a triad of symptoms to look for when checking for measles: a high fever, a cough, and a rash that usually starts in the face and rapidly spreads to the rest of the body.
She said that although the measles virus can cause severe disease, it can also cause other health complications including pneumonia.
The measles vaccine is a combination vaccine, providing protection against multiple diseases simultaneously. The vaccine’s components vary based on the individual’s age.
As per Quebec’s immunization schedule, children should receive the vaccine at 12 and 18 months. Measles cases in the country have been reduced by 97 per cent since Canada’s introduction of free vaccinations.