Vaccination rate too low in more than two-thirds of Chilliwack schools

Just 11 out of 29 elementary schools in Chilliwack has a vaccination rate higher than 90 per cent. - Vancouver Sun
Just 11 out of 29 elementary schools in Chilliwack has a vaccination rate higher than 90 per cent.
— image credit: Vancouver Sun

Just over one-third of elementary schools in Chilliwack have a measles vaccination rate high enough to prevent spread of the disease, according to Fraser Health statistics.

Healthcare officials say vaccinations rates in a community need to be 90 per cent to ensure infectious diseases are not transmitted among members.

Eleven of 29 local schools had a rate higher than 90 per cent.

Numbers obtained by the Vancouver Sun from Vancouver Coastal and Fraser health authorities for 2012/13 show four schools in the city had a rate below 80 per cent, Watson (79 per cent), Cascade Christian (71 per cent), La Verendrye (70 per cent) and Timothy Christian (62 per cent).

But it was Mt. Cheam Christian with a vaccination rate of less than 10 per cent that was the lowest in the entire Lower Mainland.

Mt. Cheam Christian was the epicentre of a measles outbreak earlier this year with more than 400 confirmed cases in four weeks.

Six schools in Chilliwack reported a vaccination rate of 95 per cent or higher: Evans, Greendale, Tyson, Unity Christian, Vedder and Chilliwack Adventist Christian (this latter school had fewer than 10 Kindergarten students).

And while 11 out of 29 elementary schools had rates of 90 per cent, a further six had rates in the high 80s.

Areas of the Lower Mainland with relatively low coverage include the Tri Cities, Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows, Surrey, the Sunshine Coast and parts of the Fraser Valley and North Shore. Vaccination rates in Vancouver and Richmond are generally higher.

Most of the schools with lower rates of measles vaccination are within the Fraser health region, which extends from Burnaby east to Hope. The fact that so many schools are falling short of the 90-per-cent target is a concern for public health officials, said Dr. Michelle Murti, a medical health officer at Fraser Health. “Even before the (measles) outbreak, we have been concerned about our immunization levels,” she said.

Mt. Cheam Christian is connected to the Reformed Congregation of North America in Chilliwack, which is closely tied to the ultra-orthodox Netherlands Reformed Congregation in Holland, which has been vulnerable to infectious diseases ranging from polio in the 1970s and mumps in 2008, to whooping cough two years ago.

“This is a community with a belief system against vaccination,”  Fraser Health Authority’s (FHA) chief medical health officer Dr. Paul Van Buynder told the Times in March.

Its members reject vaccination on the grounds that immunizing their children challenges the will of God.

Half of all Lower Mainland elementary schools have rates that meet the 90-per-cent threshold.

- with files from Tara Carman, Vancouver Sun


Chilliwack elementary school Kindergarten vaccination rates:

Adventist Christian     95% (or higher) *

Evans elementary     95% (or higher)

Greendale elementary     95% (or higher)

Tyson elementary     95% (or higher)

Unity Christian     95% (or higher)

Vedder elementary     95% (or higher)

Strathcona elementary     94%

F.G. Leary Fine Arts     93%

Promontory elementary     93%

Cultus Lake community school     91%

Rosedale Traditional     91%

Bernard elementary     89%

LIttle Mountain elementary     89%

Robertson elementary     88%

Unsworth elementary     88%

Yarrow Community school     87%

Highroad Academy     86%

Central elementary     85%

Sardis elementary     85%

McCammon traditional     84%

Cheam elementary     83%

East Chilliwack elementary     83%

John Calvin school     83%

St. Mary’s     80%

Watson elementary     79%

Cascade Christian     71% *

La Verendrye elementary     70%

Timothy Christian     62%

Mt. Cheam Christian     10% or less

* fewer than 10 Kindergarten students

- Source: Fraser Health

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