Mar 12, 2015

By Michael Kramer

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With a new report raising questions about how immunization rates are tracked in the province – the health minister says Ontario is now measles free.

The measles incubation period is between seven and 21 days – and with the last case being reported on February 20th – Eric Hoskins says the outbreak appears to be over.

There were less than 20 cases in the Toronto and Niagara region.

That compares to 119 cases so far in Quebec – for the virus that is highly contagious and causes fever, a distinctive red rash and a runny nose.

A report today on vaccination policy – from the C. D. Howe Institute – is the third recently released document to express concern about how vaccinations are tracked in the province.

Ontario and a few other provinces are using a system called Panorama to track childhood immunization – but the auditor general and C. D. Howe expressed concern that the system won’t be fully effective – unless immunization is tracked across the lifespan of all Ontarians.

The $160-million Panorama system is now in use at all but one of the public health units.

The cost has ballooned from $85 million – since the launch in August 2013.

The lack of automatic enrolment in the system at birth means it’s hard to encourage vaccination early in life. And C.D. Howe says that “potentially leaves infants vulnerable.”

The report says “although Ontario’s vaccination schedule for newborns begins at two months, and many parents begin to vaccinate their children at that time, data are not officially recorded until a child enters school.”

Hoskins said Panorama was helpful during the recent measles outbreak in determining the vaccination status of people who reported measles-like symptoms. The province expects public health units to report daycare immunization rates.

A panel of medical experts that reviewed the immunization system last year – concluded that Ontario is missing chances to monitor and potentially intervene – to promote vaccination in the first few years of life.

The review said “a truly comprehensive” registry would accurately track all vaccines administered to all Ontarians throughout their lives – with links to electronic medical records.”

It concluded that “the public and their providers should have electronic access to their own immunization records and reminders to help them follow the recommended immunization schedule.”

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