December 8, 2019

On March 27, elementary students with immunization records that are not up-to-date will be suspended from schools in Waterloo Region.

According to a late-February public notice from Region of Waterloo Public Health, during the fall of 2018, Public Health sent 9,595 notices to parents with children who had immunization records that were not up-to-date with the public health office. 

The notice stated that more than half of those students’ records were still outstanding. As a result, Public Health sent out 6,129 suspension orders.

Parents who received a suspension order have until March 26 to provide proof of immunization to Public Health or their child will be suspended for up to 20 days. Proof of immunization can be delivered to Public Health by phone, fax or online.

“When I was in schools giving vaccines, we would occasionally come across students who wished to be vaccinated, but whose parents would not sign the consent request,” said Becky Mikkelsen, a public health nurse in Kitchener, Ont. “It was an interesting issue, since the students were asking for the vaccine and understood, but weren’t able to get it without parental consent.

“We weren’t able to vaccinate them in their school environment, since it would cause issues for the program,” Mikkelsen said.

The Immunization of School Pupils Act (ISPA) requires students to be immunized against tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox (for those born after 2010) and meningococcal disease. Records of immunization must be provided to Public Health.

“Vaccines are essential to protecting the public from viruses that were once very threatening to humans,” said Connor Lassor, a student at the University of Guelph who is unable to receive vaccines. “As someone who cannot get vaccinated in regards to health reasons, I rely on the general public to get vaccinated. If that doesn’t happen, the people who cannot receive vaccines, like myself, are at very high risk of coming in contact with the preventable diseases.

“With the current measles outbreak in Canada, it’s terrifying to know that my fate of coming in contact with preventable infectious diseases lies with the public. If I could get vaccinated tomorrow, I would — but unfortunately, that’s not my case,” said Lassor.

Parents and guardians may contact their health-care providers or family physicians to receive immunization records. Public Health also offers immunization clinics in both Waterloo and Cambridge. Appointments can be made by calling 519-575-4400, ext. 5003.

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