The Public Health Amendment Act would mean a faster response to vaccine-preventable outbreaks in schools.
“Immunization saves lives. These amendments are aimed at increasing our immunization rates and protecting children from diseases like measles or whooping cough – diseases that are prevented with vaccines. We’ll be better equipped to respond to outbreaks and public health officials will have more ability to provide information to families about the importance of vaccination.”
Current immunization rates in the province are not high enough to prevent outbreaks of some vaccine-preventable diseases. When an outbreak occurs in a school, health professionals must track down missing student immunization records, which slows their ability to respond to the outbreak and protect children’s health.
Government is addressing these issues with proposed amendments to the Public Health Act. Bill 28 would facilitate more efficient:
- collection of student enrolment information to help identify students with incomplete immunization records
- contact with parents of students who do not have complete immunization records to:
- request immunization information
- provide information on the benefits of immunization and the risks of not immunizing if needed
- explain current policy that requires unimmunized students to stay home in the event of an outbreak.
Parents of students with missing immunization information will be asked to:
- provide the student’s immunization record
- complete or update missing immunizations
- provide a letter indicating a medical exemption has been granted, or
- sign a form indicating they choose not to immunize their child.
Parents who decide not to update their child’s immunization information will be informed they are required to keep their children home if certain highly contagious vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles occurs at their school. In some cases, children may need to stay home for several weeks.
“Immunization has saved countless lives from diseases like measles, whooping cough and polio. These amendments will give public health professionals better data on who is and isn’t immunized in the event of an outbreak, allowing health professionals to quickly identify children who are at risk and intervene to protect their health and the health of others. These amendments will also give us stronger tools to encourage parents to immunize their children and protect them from preventable diseases.”
“Our Board applauds both Alberta Education and Alberta Health for taking this proactive measure to protect the safety and health of all students in the province.”
“Measures to protect children’s health and safety in learning environments is assuring for parents. School councils welcome a conversation on comprehensive school health and protecting the well-being of all students.”
Bill 28 would also support public health professionals so they can collect parent contact information from licensed and approved childcare programs in the event of an outbreak. This already happens at many licensed daycare facilities in Alberta but these proposed amendments would ensure that process is consistent throughout the province.
These amendments would also strengthen the delivery of immunization in a more co-ordinated and efficient way while maintaining basic public health principles of vaccine safety. This includes following a recommended vaccine schedule and adhering to vaccine storage practices posted by the Chief Medical Officer of Health. Requirements would also be created to report all immunizations and any adverse reactions to the provincial immunization repository.