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Waterloo Region student immunizations set to return but suspensions a ways off: Aoki

As things slowly begin to the before-times in Ontario, there will be plenty of work to do to play catch-up on many things missed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Robyn Beck / Getty Images

As things slowly return to pre-pandemic times in Ontario, there will be plenty of work to do to catch up on things missed as a result of COVID-19.

While many resources were thrown at fighting the virus, other items such as school vaccinations were left in the wings.

Read more: WRDSB to hold meeting Friday night to discuss provincial COVID-19 changes for schools

David Aoki, Waterloo Public Health’s director of infectious diseases, who is currently leading the region’s COVID vaccination effort, says that thousands of kids need to get their other childhood vaccinations up-to-date.

“We’re still doing that digging into how many shots were missed,” he told reporters on Friday, although he was able to provide an estimate for the Grade 7 shots he referred to as school program.

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“Because of the two years of school that we haven’t offered in-school vaccines, we’ve probably missed about 15,000 to 20,000 students that haven’t had their Grade 7 shot.”

Normally, Waterloo Public Health would be providing clinics to get that age group their hepatitis B, meningitis and human papillomavirus vaccines.

Click to play video: 'Inconsistent policies for Ontario school-based vaccine programs, experts calling for coordinated approach' Inconsistent policies for Ontario school-based vaccine programs, experts calling for coordinated approach
Inconsistent policies for Ontario school-based vaccine programs, experts calling for coordinated approach – Nov 1, 2021

“We obviously haven’t been able to run those clinics since March of 2020, and actually even a little bit before if you remember some of the rotating teacher strikes. We had our clinics canceled going back to December of 2019.”

In addition, Aoki says that they have not been conducting their normal reviews which would let parents or guardians know what, if any, shots their children were missing.

After the parents were alerted to the missing shots, they would eventually be warned of potential suspensions if their kid’s shots were not up to date.

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“In March, every year we provide enforcement which can include suspension,” he said. “We have curtailed those services since 2019 and 2020. We have not run suspension.”

He says some of those programs will be getting back underway soon.

Read more: Waterloo Region council to meet March 16 to discuss face-covering bylaw

“We are looking into providing some notification to parents about what they may have missed for the routine vaccination – the other nine vaccinations under the Act,” Aoki said.

“We have no intention this year of doing any enforcement like suspending.”

He explained that Waterloo Public Health is well aware that in many cases, parents have not been able to get in to see their family physician for routine checkups and immunizations during the pandemic so it may take some time to clear up the backlog.

“So we will work with our community in order to get those set up and then determine the right time to start enforcing the act,” Aoki said.

“Again, we’re not going to rush into it because we know we, you know, we know that parents are still just getting back into looking at regular health matters.”

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