Starting Apr. 13, high school students who have incomplete vaccination records may face suspension from school.
Under the Immunization of School Pupils Act, Region of Waterloo Public Health is required to collect immunization records for all children attending school in the Region. If students are missing the required records or legal exemption, they can be suspended from school for up to 20 days or until the documentation is received. Enforcement for elementary school students will start May 11.
“Our goal is not to suspend students. Our goal is to ensure we have immunization records,” said Lesley Rintche, manager of vaccine preventable diseases at the public health department.
In the case of an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease, Public Health knows which students have been immunized and which have to be removed from school for the duration of the outbreak.
“Essentially we would know who is at risk and who is not,” Rintche explained.
Students are required to be immunized against tetanus, diphtheria, polio, measles, mumps and rubella. For the most part, Rintche said, the immunizations are complete but Public Health doesn’t have the records.
People often don’t realize that doctor’s offices have no obligation and no authority to provide the information; it’s up to the students or their parents.
Letters were sent home to secondary students with incomplete immunization records in early March, and letters will go out to elementary students later this month. Parents can contact their health care provider or family doctor to get the required records or immunizations. Those without a family doctor can arrange to get immunizations at Public Health’s offices in Waterloo and Cambridge.
On average, between 400 and 500 students are suspended every year. That number is low given the number of students in the region, Rintche said, and most of them are back in school within a week.
For more information or to make an appointment for an immunization, contact Public Health’s vaccine information line at 519-883-2007, ext. 5273.