About 1,200 students from the London, Ontario area have been suspended from school because their vaccinations against preventable diseases are not up to date.
The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) issued the suspension notices through local school boards on Wednesday as it works to bring immunization levels back to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels.
School-age children in Ontario require a range of vaccinations to prevent outbreaks of diseases such as measles, mumps and diphtheria and are required to provide records to schools. Parents can grant a TUE or submit a letter explaining their conscientious objection.
“We’re concerned, and I think that’s one of the reasons we’re really trying to get back into the business of helping people get their vaccines up to date,” said Dr. Alex Summers, the MLHU’s health officer.
“One vaccine-preventable disease that many people have heard of or may be familiar with is measles. Measles is extremely contagious, and if measles immunization coverage drops even slightly, the risk of an outbreak increases significantly,” Summers said.
In 2019, the Health Unit said 98 per cent of seven-year-olds in the London area were vaccinated against measles. This year, 51 percent submitted proof of vaccination.
Summers said the pandemic has 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 been sent to households that have outstanding vaccination records.
“The trial was suspended and the reasons for that were linked to all the other burdens. Not just us at public health, but finding the time to turn in your paperwork has been difficult when you’re trying to balance kids at home, lockdowns and all that,” Summers said.
The health authority said most parents are quick to respond and submit proof of vaccination. He added that there have been no outbreaks at this time and hope it will stay that way.