A health unit serving central Ontario is sending school suspension orders to approximately 600 students for not having updated vaccination records.
This week the Haliburton, Kawartha Pine Ridge (HKPR) District Health Unit says students and families in the City of Kawartha Lakes, Northumberland County and Haliburton County will receive the school suspension orders.
“School suspension orders are a last resort and only issued when students and their families have not updated their vaccination records with the health unit,” stated Marianne Rock, the health unit’s manager of communicable disease prevention and control.
“We encourage families who receive these suspension orders to contact us immediately so vaccination records can be updated and students won’t have to miss a day of class.”
The health unit says the Immunization of School Pupils Act requires Ontario students to be fully vaccinated against diphtheria, measles, mumps, varicella (chickenpox), meningococcal disease, polio, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella and tetanus.
If vaccines are missing, Ontario health units issue school suspension orders to these students.
In January, the health unit first contacted 2,500 students who did not have updated vaccination records or provided valid reasons for why they were not vaccinated. Since then, the health unit says it has been working closely with families on the process.
“Over the past three months, we were able to update the vaccination records for most students who faced possible school suspension,” Rock stated. “Now we want to work with parents and guardians to ensure that the last few hundred students are fully vaccinated and protected … and do not miss a day of school.”
Rock notes in many cases, students have received all the required vaccines but the records have not been shared with the health unit.
If vaccines are still needed, the students can be vaccinated by their doctor or health unit nurses. Students can also be exempted from vaccination for medical reasons and issues of conscience or religious belief. If none of these options is followed, the school suspension orders will take effect in late April.
“The last thing the health unit wants to do is suspend students, but we are legally required to ensure students attending school are fully vaccinated against certain vaccine-preventable diseases,” Rock adds. “Vaccines are free, safe and effective and protect young people against serious illness.”
Peterborough Public Health reports approximately 1,400 suspension notices went out earlier this year. Officials say that number has dropped significantly as parents submit the required information.
“We’re getting a lot of phone calls from parents, or they’re getting their health care provider to fax in their records or they’re doing it on our website,” said Marilyn Mitchell, registered nurse with Peterborough Public Health.