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Thousands of students could be suspended unless immunized

As many as 5,000 students are not up to date on immunization records
injection needle vaccine
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The warning on the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health press release is in bold black lettering. Students with incomplete immunization records as of the Mar. 22 deadline will be suspended from school until they are up to date on their shots.

Public health issued the warning Wednesday, saying there are about 5,000 students facing suspension if they do not get to a doctor or clinic in the next two weeks for their vaccinations. Notices were sent to 11,000 students with incomplete immunizations records back in January.

The highest number of students in jeopardy of suspension is in Guelph, where 2,440 are overdue. Of that total, just over 1,500 are elementary students. Guelph has 48 per cent of all students in Public Health's catchment area who are overdue. 

Vaccinations prevent serious illnesses, illnesses that can easily spread in schools and daycare centres.  

“I think we have to put the 5,000 in perspective of the entire student body,” Chuck Ferguson, communications manager for Public Health, said in an interview. “Most students and families are up-to-date. Some have just not taken steps yet.”

All public health units in the province are taking the same measures at this time, he added.

“What we find is when we begin suspensions our clinics get very busy, and doctors’ offices get very busy,” he said. “We are trying to encourage people to take care of this before the suspensions come into place.”

He said there are a number of diseases that students must be inoculated for in Ontario under the Immunization of School Pupils Act. There have been recent cases of measles and mumps in the area that are concerning, but the list includes a total of seven diseases.

In the province, children and adolescents in primary or secondary school must have proof of immunization for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, and meningococcal disease, a recent addition to the list. All are vaccine-preventable.

“We’re taking on the full mandate to enforce the legislation,” Ferguson said. “The province has asked us to do that, just to protect students.”

Student can be suspended for up to 20 days if their records are not updated.

Public health is working with school boards and principals to reduce the number of students who are not up-to-date and facing suspension. Parents are asked to make an appointment immediately with a physician to arrange for any missing vaccines and then report their vaccinations to Public Health.

In the press release, Rita Sethi, director of community health and wellness, said high school students without up-to-date records would be suspended on Mar. 22 and elementary student by the first week of April.


Rob O'Flanagan

About the Author: Rob O'Flanagan

Rob O’Flanagan has been a newspaper reporter, photojournalist and columnist for over twenty years. He has won numerous Ontario Newspaper Awards and a National Newspaper Award.
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