11/07/2016 12:41 EST | Updated 11/08/2017 00:12 EST

Alberta to update immunization records to better respond to outbreaks

EDMONTON — Alberta is moving to bring in new rules to get a handle on which children are immunized so that the province can better respond to outbreaks.

The government introduced a bill Monday that would allow health officials to cross-match immunization records with school enrolment lists to see who is being overlooked.

"Alberta's childhood immunization rates are not meeting our national targets," Health Minister Sarah Hoffman told a news conference after the bill  was introduced in the legislature.

"This proposed legislation will help us raise our immunization rates and protect Albertans better from vaccine-preventable diseases."

Hoffman said health officials are missing immunizations records for an estimated 15 to 25 per cent of school-age children.

If the bill is passed and the program is put in place, parents of students with missing immunization records will be asked to provide the information, get the immunization or sign a form saying they don't wish to immunize their children.

The bill would also allow health professionals to collect parent contact information from licensed and approved child-care programs in the event of an outbreak.

Hoffman said the updated information would allow school officials to react faster during outbreaks.

Children who do not get immunized can already be directed to stay home if certain highly contagious vaccine-preventable diseases break out at their schools.

Health officials estimate well over 80 per cent of children by age 2 get shots for measles, mumps, rubella and chicken pox, but they want to get the figures into the 90 per cent range to better prevent outbreaks.