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Health Unit giving a boost to hundreds of high school students

SIMCOE, FEBRUARY 13, 2012 – Illnesses are quickly passed between family members in a home, or coworkers in a workplace. For teens, their high school is their workplace, and the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit wants to ensure local students are protected from a number of serious diseases.

“With so many people in the hallways, classrooms and cafeterias, if an outbreak of a disease were to occur it could rapidly spread between students and staff,” said Wendy Holmes, Clinical Services Program Coordinator for the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit. “If and when such an outbreak occurs, we have to know which students are and aren’t protected.”

Considering that public health officials have their sights set on more than 1300 students with missing or outdated immunization records, the Health Unit has its work cut out.

One-day clinics will be held at each of the ten area high schools during school hours from February 21 through March 1. Eligible students will receive the Tdap vaccine, a three- in-one combined vaccine that protects against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough), and allows students to receive the necessary immunizations with a single injection

On entering elementary school, students typically have received immunizations against tetanus, diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella (German measles) and pertussis. However, booster shots are required after 10 years for continued protection from tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.

This booster shot is required by Ontario law as part of the Immunization of School Pupils Act, and hundreds of students may be facing suspension from school if they do not receive the vaccine. The Health Unit mailed a notice and consent form to every eligible student in January, along with information about the date of their respective school immunization clinic.

Holmes explained that while the Health Unit has the authority to issue suspensions, they would rather not enforce the suspension process.

“Our focus is on protecting students and all residents of Haldimand and Norfolk counties against these potentially dangerous diseases that can be prevented by a vaccine,” noted Holmes. “The suspension letters are a necessary process to ensure we have a complete record of the immunization status of the students.”

In most cases, Holmes added, students are current on their immunizations, but the Health Unit just does not have the updated information.

Media contact:
Wendy Holmes
Program Coordinator, Clinical Services
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
Ext. 3152 at either 519-426-6170 or 905-318-6623
wendy.holmes@hnhu.org