WELLINGTON COUNTY – More than 10,000 students in Wellington County, Dufferin County and Guelph don’t have up-to-date immunization records and are running the risk of being suspended from school.
Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH) sent 2,400 letters to area high school students in November reminding them their records are not up-to-date and another 8,000 notices were recently sent to parents of elementary students in the same situation.
The Immunization of School Pupils Act requires students to have up-to-date immunization records on file with public health to avoid being suspended from school.
High school students have until Feb. 14 to update their records and elementary students have until March 6.
Immunization is key to stopping the spread of disease and public health needs to know who is and who isn’t immunized in the event of an outbreak.
Many students will have had their shots, it’s just a matter of updating their records. Others may be behind with their immunizations but still have time to get their shots.
“[WDGPH] does not want to suspend any student and is working closely with individual schools to help students get up to date with their immunizations by holding clinics at our offices and in schools,” public health officials state.
Children who cannot be immunized for medical reasons need to have a statement of medical exemption completed by their physician and submitted to WDGPH.
If parents or students are choosing not to immunize for religious or conscientious reasons, there are other steps that they need to follow. Information on exemptions can be found at wdgpublichealth.ca.
There are nine designated diseases that require proof of vaccination: diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, meningococcal disease (meningitis), pertussis (whooping cough) and varicella (chicken pox).
According to a December report by manager of vaccine preventable diseases Karen Mulvey, 26.7 per cent of students aged four to 17 had outstanding records or overdue vaccines in the 2022/23 school year.
Last January, 13,018 letters were sent to students, parents or guardians.
The report states 6,922 received immunizations and by June, another 6,854 immunization records were updated.
A total of 269 students were exempt for religious or conscientious reasons. That’s up from 249 exemptions in the 2017/18 school year.
“WDGPH did not enforce suspension under the immunization act in 2022/23… but plans are in place to enforce suspension in the 2023/24 school year,” Mulvey wrote.
Tracking immunization records was set aside in 2019, 2020 and 2021 as public health staff was redeployed to COVID-19 duties.
Once school resumed, WDGPH has put extra effort into getting caught up.
Parents, guardians and students who receive a letter are encouraged to reach out to their primary physician or public health if they need the shots.
They can also access the Immunizatin Connect Ontario tool at immunizewdg.ca to report and view their immunization records.
Information can also be found at wdgpublichealth.ca/your-kids/vaccination.