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Unvaccinated students facing suspension, Health Unit warns

SIMCOE, ON, FEB. 26, 2009 – Hundreds of secondary school students in Haldimand and Norfolk Counties could be suspended from school in April if they don’t get booster-shot vaccinations required by Ontario law, the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is warning.

The Immunization of School Pupils Act requires students to be immunized against certain diseases to attend school. On entering elementary school, students typically have received immunizations against tetanus, diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella (German measles) and pertussis (whooping cough). However, booster shots are required after 10 years to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.

“We sent out notices and started holding booster-shot clinics in all of the secondary schools starting Feb. 23,” noted Health Unit Clinical Services Program Coordinator Wendy Holmes. “We still have some clinics to go, the last being March 10, but so far the turnout has been nothing short of dismal, with a response rate of only 10 to 15 percent. Close to1,400 students are on the list for needed immunizations, which means hundreds of students face suspension if the poor turnout continues.”

The Health Unit will begin sending out suspension notices on March 27, to take effect April 14.

“We are urging secondary school students in both counties to check to see if there is still a clinic scheduled in their respective school,” Holmes said. “If not, they should call the Health Unit and we can book an appointment at one of our Health Unit clinics. Family doctors can also give the booster, but the student needs to prove to us that the immunization took place.”

Students may contact the Health Unit at 519-426-6170 or 905-318-6623.

The Health Unit provides immunization clinics in all secondary schools each year to provide students with an opportunity to get their needed immunizations.

According to Health Unit records, the percentage of secondary school students who were up to date with their immunizations fell from approximately 85 per cent in 2005 to 58 per cent in 2009.

“We don’t like issuing suspensions, but it’s the law,” Holmes said. “The immunization rate has dropped significantly and we are obligated to make sure students are protected from these diseases. We can’t let this trend continue. As a result, we will definitely be issuing suspensions this year.”

The Health Unit has the authority to issue suspensions under the Immunization of School Pupils Act.

Media contact:
Wendy Holmes
Program Coordinator
Clinical Services Team
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
519-426-6170 Ext. 3152 or 905-318-6623 Ext. 3152