Get vaccines up to date, Ottawa Public Health urges

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Ottawa Public health is encouraging families to keep their children’s vaccinations up to date as the global surge of measles cases begins to hit closer to home.

This week cases have been identified in southern Ontario, including in a child who spent hours waiting in emergency departments, and another individual with no recent travel history. That suggests there could be some local spread as well as cases being acquired overseas.

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Measles has been eliminated in Canada because of high vaccination rates. But during the pandemic, those numbers began to slip.

Ottawa Public Health and other groups have made clinics available to help people catch up. Children routinely get two doses of measles vaccine – one at 12 months and a second between four and six months.

Physicians, many of whom have never seen a case of measles, have also been reminded what to look for and how to test for measles in patients.

Dr. Trevor Arnason, who is an associate medical officer of health at Ottawa Public Health, said Ottawa could see some imported cases of measles as travel ramps up, but he said there is not a high risk of outbreaks or local spread.

In Ottawa, an estimated 62 per cent of children born in 2016 are known to be fully vaccinated against measles.  Some might have been vaccinated but haven’t reported to public health, which means the number is likely higher. Last year, more than 80 per cent of seven-year-olds were fully vaccinated.  Among those born in 2006, 92 per cent are vaccinated.

Parents are required to report their children’s routine immunizations to OPH.

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Across Canada, 79.3 per cent of seven-year-olds have received two doses. Vaccination coverage of 95 per cent is considered necessary to prevent it from spreading.

A key concern this time of year is travel.

Arnason said anyone travelling outside the country right now is at risk of being exposed to measles. Children should be fully vaccinated before travel and babies can receive a first dose as young as six months if they are travelling.

Adults who may have only had one dose can also get a second dose for travel. Arnason said that is not covered by OHIP – and not necessary – for people not travelling.

Measles is one of the most contagious of all known infections. People can become infected hours after entering a room where another person with measles has been. Because of that, travel makes people particularly susceptible.

Children who do not have or cannot access a regular health care provider can book a routine vaccine appointment at an Ottawa Public Health community clinic or through the Kids Come First Clinic Flow

OPH’s Parenting in Ottawa page provides more information at:

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