The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) is reminding secondary school students to update their immunization records.
Students have until Tuesday, September 26th, to do so, in line with the Immunization of School Pupils Act, and avoid suspension.
In a release, the health unit says over 4,500 suspension orders have been mailed to secondary school students in Simcoe Muskoka.
“This is the third notice that most of these students have received from the health unit,” the release stated.
Deanna Thompson, immunization program manager at SMDHU, told Barrie 360 that the pandemic was a factor for these numbers.
“The pandemic certainly put an increase in the amount of students that had not either – one – received [their routine and required immunizations] – or two – reported it to us,” said Thompson.
“Unfortunately, our efforts were diverted to administering COVID vaccines in our communities, and we weren’t following up with these families as we normally do. So, over the past nine months, we’ve been getting back to our routine work and reviewing students who are overdue for the mandatory vaccines under the Immunization of School Pupils Act.”
In Ontario, vaccination against tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella (for those born in 2010 and after) and meningococcal disease are required under the act, unless there is a valid exemption. Hepatitis B and HPV vaccines are strongly recommended.
“We’re trying to catch up three years, specifically for the high school students, getting those dates updated,” said Thompson. “But I would say normally, most parents get it done, they just forget to report. Many parents will take their daughter or son to the clinic, they get them immunized, but they don’t report it, so there’s a gap in our numbers.
“So, often us sending letters home to families, it’s just a matter of going online, reporting it, or giving us a call at the health unit and reporting those dates.”
Suspension from school for up to 20 days could be a possibility if immunizations are not up to date. Once the missing immunization information is provided to the health unit, they say the student is removed from the suspension list and can return to school.
Thompson says the number of suspension orders is already decreasing.
“Right now, we’re about 20 per cent of our high school students that are in grade 11 and 12 that are outstanding, but those numbers continue to drop even today,” said Thompson.
“We know that outbreak is real, it happens, and it spreads very quickly in these populations. It’s important that we get all students up to date for their age and make sure that they’re protected and protecting our communities as well.”
To report that a routine and required immunization has been completed, click here, or call the health unit’s Health Connection line (705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520).
Families who do not have a healthcare provider can book an immunization appointment by following this link.
And for more information, visit smdhu.org.
Banner image – file photo – Barrie 360