Approximately 1,200 students from the London, Ont., area have been suspended from school because their vaccinations for preventable diseases are not up to date.
The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) issued the suspension notices through local school boards Wednesday as it works to bring vaccination levels back up to levels from before the COVID-19-pandemic.
School-aged children in Ontario require a series of inoculations to prevent outbreaks of diseases including measles, mumps and diphtheria, and must provide records to the schools. Parents can provide a medical exemption or submit a letter explaining why they conscientiously object.
“We are concerned and I think that’s one of the reasons why we are really trying to get back into the business of helping people get up to date with their vaccines,” said Dr. Alex Summers, the MLHU’s medical officer of health.
“A vaccine-preventable disease that many people have heard of or might be familiar with is measles. Measles is extraordinarily infectious, and as vaccination coverage drops for measles, even a little bit, the risk of outbreak goes up a lot,” Summers said.
In 2019, the health unit said 98 per cent of seven-year-olds in the London area were vaccinated for the measles. This year, 51 per cent have submitted proof of vaccination for the same.
Summers said the pandemic derailed vaccination clinics, including the usual reminders the health unit would send home to parents. Since the school year resumed, he said, more than 45,000 letters have gone out to homes where vaccine records are outstanding.
“The process was on hold, and the reasons for that were related to all the other pressures. Not only us at public health, but it was hard to find the time to submit your records when you’re trying to balance kids being at home, lockdowns and all of that,” Summers said.
The health authority said most parents are quickly responding and submitting vaccination records. He added there have been no outbreaks at this point and hopes that will continue.