Two more new cases of measles in Montreal

Measles continues to progress in Quebec: two new cases have been confirmed in Montreal since Monday, bringing to 12 the number of people infected since the resurgence of the disease in February. Schools will reopen in a few days and in Montreal, many are where few students are adequately vaccinated.

In the two new cases observed in Montreal, it is a community transmission, confirms the Montreal Regional Public Health Department (DRSP).

And as students return from their spring break on Monday, it is in Montreal schools that measles vaccination rates are the lowest, by far.

While the vaccination rate which confers collective immunity against measles is 95%, in Montreal primary schools, the average vaccination coverage is 78%.

What’s more, 43.5% of schools are below this average, said The Press the DRSP.

In secondary school, where the vaccination average is 80.7%, almost half of the schools (47%) are below this percentage.


The DD Mylène Drouin, regional public health director of Montreal

At a press briefing Monday in Montreal, the DD Mylène Drouin, regional public health director for Montreal, said that in certain schools in the metropolis, vaccination coverage is barely 30%.

On Wednesday, Montreal Public Health was not able to tell us how many schools had reached the famous 95% vaccination coverage rate. This is a “small proportion,” Marianne Paquette, spokesperson for the CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, told us.

Lack of data in some schools

Montreal Public Health does not reveal measles vaccination rates by school, so as not to “stigmatize particular schools or sectors”.

“We must also take into account that schools do not all have the same diligence in filling out the data, which does not make the portrait accurate,” writes Mme Paquette.

The DRSP does not hold any data for 22 primary schools and 11 secondary schools.

In the event of a measles outbreak, unvaccinated children are removed from classes until there are no more cases in the school, the national director of public health explained on Monday.

“I would not want there to be a case in my school,” says Stéphane Richard, vice-president of the Montreal Association of School Directors (AMDES), in this regard.

Is this something (measles) that I trust can be fixed with vaccination? Of course.

Stéphane Richard, vice-president of the Montreal Association of School Directors

Generally speaking, in schools, the response to vaccination campaigns is good, he says. Just before spring break, a letter was sent to parents to remind them to have their children vaccinated against measles, if they have not already done so.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused vaccination rates to drop, and the subsequent increase is “encouraging, but we are far from where we were before, which was not ideal,” explains the Dr Donald Vinh, microbiologist-infectious disease specialist at the McGill University Health Center.

Not everyone has access to a health professional, he says, to follow the “elaborate” vaccination schedule. “The system is fractured. People can go to a clinic here, see a doctor who is not their usual doctor. The continuity is not there,” continues the Dr Vinh.

“Illness becomes abstract”

In Laval, where two cases have been confirmed in the territory, we are particularly focusing on children aged 2 to 4, by calling parents of children who have not been vaccinated. The vaccination rate for these young people varies between 79% to 83%.

“It’s lower than what we have in primary and secondary schools, because in preschool, we check the records to offer vaccination for those that are incomplete, whether it’s measles or other infections,” said the Dr Jean-Pierre Trépanier, regional public health director of Laval.

A case was declared last week at the international school of Aventuriers, a primary school located in the Chomedey district.

“The next day, we were present in the school with seven school nurses. We asked for proof of vaccination for the children and staff members and we offered vaccination,” explains the Dr Trepanier.

Vaccination coverage was then increased among students, but also “significantly” among staff members, he specifies.

Between 2019 and the beginning of this year, measles had stopped circulating in Quebec.

“We hear very little about measles because we don’t see it regularly. The disease becomes abstract,” says Dr.r Donald Vinh, who cites complications of the infection such as pneumonia, vision loss, brain infections.

“We are victims of our success. The vaccine works well, people forget about the disease and believe that the vaccine is not important, which is a flaw in logic,” says Dr.r Vinh.


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