Ontario schools ramp up measles immunization programs after high-profile outbreak

A day after Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott declared measles had “passed its peak,” the Toronto District School Board announced it would ramp up immunization programs for young children. Ontario’s vaccination rates have been on the decline since 2016, according to the Toronto Star, and Elliott has said that the government does not have the authority to mandate the shot.

Schools have reported measles outbreaks in Toronto, Ottawa, Guelph, and Guelph, Ont., since January 2018. In the most recent outbreak, 15 people have been confirmed with the disease in Toronto. Although all of the patients have been vaccinated, officials are concerned that other people who don’t have the vaccine may not be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of the illness. There has been a decrease in the vaccination rate of infants younger than two years old, and a rise in cases of vaccination refusal among adults.

“We are all concerned about measles, and we are all focused on ensuring the outbreak in Toronto is contained,” said Mayor John Tory, according to CNN. “We know that schools are a major location for this outbreak — if the vaccination rate isn’t there, then you could have an increase in the spread of this disease.”

The Toronto District School Board hopes to respond to this situation by expanding its immunization program and offering new vaccinations at 25 more schools. Children will still have to be checked by a nurse before they start school, but the school board has added 25 schools to its list of preschool and kindergarten facilities where they have recommended immunizations. On Friday, they followed up with additional vaccination recommendations for people ages six months to five years of age.

The measles virus is airborne and can live in the air for up to two hours. It spreads through direct contact with an infected person or by touching an infected surface, and people usually develop cold symptoms three to four days after becoming infected. Symptoms may begin as fever, cough, and runny nose, and then turn into a blotchy rash that spreads from the face, down the body, and over the body.

Some people have argued that vaccines are bad for children and are linked to increased autism, but many have dismissed this claim, saying that autism has been associated with childhood diseases like measles and polio.

Read the full story at CNN.


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