London space pupils suspended from college for lack of vaccination documentation for childhood illnesses – London


In the London, Ontario area, rolling suspensions for students without submitted vaccination records against preventable childhood illnesses have begun.

As of Wednesday, the first cohort of students from the area was suspended for at least 20 days or until documentation that they had received their vaccines was submitted.

Provincial law, the Ontario Immunization of Student Pupils Act, requires students in grades 1-12 to be vaccinated against nine preventable diseases. Failure to demonstrate a student’s full vaccination or valid exemption will result in the local health department having the power to issue school suspensions.

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The Middlesex-London Health Unit’s Health Officer, Dr. Alex Summers says the suspensions are a way to prevent the spread of contagious childhood diseases in the event of an outbreak.

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“We know that outbreaks of these vaccine-preventable diseases can keep children out of school, and we’re trying to prevent that here,” Summers said.

The diseases against which students must be vaccinated are diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, meningococcus and whooping cough. Children born in 2010 or later must also be vaccinated against chickenpox.

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Vaccine uptake has decreased significantly compared to the last full school year without COVID-19.

Compared to the 2018/19 school year, compliance among seven-year-old students has fallen between two and 49 percent, depending on the vaccine. For 17-year-olds, the rate has fallen between one and 45 percent, depending on the vaccine.

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According to Summers, it’s important to note that these numbers don’t necessarily represent the number of students missing a required intake, but rather the number without submitted records.

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The top doctor added the COVID-19 pandemic has been an obstacle in many ways, not only in getting children vaccinated, but also in parents reporting vaccinations so that records are up to date.

The health department has spent the past year updating immunization records and sent out about 42,000 letters to parents and guardians over the past school year. Catch-up clinics were run throughout the summer to give children a chance to get vaccinated if they were behind.

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After sending out a second round of letters in the fall, the health unit began issuing suspension notices in December. The suspensions will be issued to different cohorts between January and June, with a month’s notice to allow time for filing documents.

“In most cases, we avoid the need for a suspension,” Summers said, adding that while 3,500 suspension notices were issued last month, only 500 students were out of school at the end of Thursday, as 3,000 had since submitted proper paperwork.

A permanent policy change for the region will be that not just select grades will be screened for immunization records, but all students will be screened for paperwork.

While the gap in vaccination coverage for preventable diseases is being attributed to the barriers created by the pandemic, Summers said it’s too early to tell if growing anti-vaccination sentiment will affect student immunization.

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“We certainly recognize that we need to monitor attitudes towards vaccination really closely,” Summers said.

“Vaccination is one of the most important public health tools we have and we need to ensure that people have confidence in the safety effectiveness of these tools.”

Middlesex-London is one of the first health units in the province to resume suspensions for undocumented students, Summers said.

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