Canada: Public health department pulls some programs because of vaccine shortage

(CNN) — In the face of falling rates of measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases, the Toronto Public Health department is requesting temporary suspension of some of its most popular recreational programs.

The department said Wednesday that it is removing certain activities from its 2017-18 sports and recreation programming schedule because of a shortage of staff certified to administer vaccines.

Staff have been asked to temporarily “paide” programs and drop-in opportunities at City of Toronto facilities to consider employment in other organizations.

“Public Health is committed to ensuring the appropriate protection of all children and adults in Toronto, and in accordance with the Public Health Act, we are working with our clients and offering information and support,” spokeswoman Kristy Gavin said in a statement.

“New York City experienced a similar situation when two health professionals couldn’t administer vaccinations in recent years, but increased efforts helped in ensuring the public health safety of communities,” she said.

Significant surges in immunization rates are needed to prevent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, Gavin said. She noted that her department is working to address the issue.

Toronto has seen “significant increases” in its immunization rate for measles, mumps and rubella, according to the statement. The city’s immunization rate for measles jumped from 5.2% in 2015 to 10.4% last year.

A rate of 90% is considered very high, which is why the city is asking those currently enrolled in the programs to stay until the issue is resolved.

Earlier this month, a 70-year-old Vancouver man was confirmed to have measles, the first case of the disease in Canada in decades. In 2011, a New Jersey man caught measles after visiting Vancouver and washing his hands.

Two of the three people on Vancouver’s city payroll with the vaccines who returned for business recently were not properly vaccinated, CNN affiliate BC News reported last week.

Measles has spread from the Pacific island nation of Kiribati to the Philippines, Hong Kong and London. There is still no vaccine for the disease.

Measles is caused by a virus that spreads through the air through coughing and sneezing. Symptoms can include fever, cough, runny nose, sore eyes and a red rash.

Babies less than 6 months old can’t be vaccinated against measles. Older children can receive measles vaccine at 12 to 15 months old, and adolescents as young as 17 can receive the vaccine as late as 25 weeks of age. Adults of any age who have not been vaccinated are advised to get vaccinated against measles as soon as possible.

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