April 25, 2013 1:20 pm
Updated: April 25, 2013 7:47 pm

Fact file: Are students required to get vaccinated in Canada?


TORONTO – Hundreds of high school students in Ottawa possibly face suspension for not providing proof of immunizations required under provincial legislation.

According to the Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Public Health began to send 5,500 letters late last month to parents who hadn’t provided documentation to indicate that their children had received immunizations for diseases such as rubella, measles and mumps.

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It was their third warning.

Compulsory immunization laws are rare in Canada and only three provinces have legislated vaccination policies applying strictly to children about to enroll in school.

READ MORE: Are Canadian kids undervaccinated?

The Public Health Agency of Canada states it is up to each province and territory to decide which routines they would like to include in routine schedules, to decide which immunizations will be publicly paid for and to organize how immunizations will be delivered.

While there are no mandatory vaccination laws governing Canada, students who wish to enroll in schools in Ontario and New Brunswick are required to provide immunization records to the school at the time of registration.

Which provinces have mandatory vaccination laws?

In Ontario and New Brunswick, students are required to be immunized for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella.

In Manitoba, while students are not required to have a measles vaccination if they wish to enroll in school, those who are not vaccinated must stay home should an outbreak occur.

Are these vaccines really “mandatory”?

Students can be exempted from the vaccination requirements based on conscience, medical or religious grounds.

Public Health Agency of Canada says students who do not receive immunizations must stay home from school if there is an outbreak of disease in order to keep unimmunized children from getting ill.

Can a student get suspended for not getting immunized?

According to the Immunization of Schools Pupils Act, a student may be suspended from school for a period of 20 days for any of the reasons below:

  • The school’s medical officer did not receive a statement signed by a physician that the pupil has received the completed the prescribed program of immunization in relation to the designated diseases
  • The school’s medical officer did not receive a statement of medical exemption
  • The school’s medical officer did not receive a statement of religious or conscience belief that exempts the student from having to receive the vaccinations
  • The school’s medical officer is not satisfied that the pupil has completed, has commenced and will complete or will commence and complete the prescribed program of immunization in relation to the designated diseases.

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