Parents and guardians encouraged to ensure students are protected against vaccine preventable diseasesIssued: Thursday, January 12, 2023
Starting in January, Public Health Sudbury & Districts (Public Health) will resume its work with area schools and parents and guardians to ensure students are protected against vaccine preventable diseases. This is following Public Health efforts that began in March 2022 to help area students catch up on their immunizations by offering several dedicated catch-up vaccination clinics.
With the COVID-19 pandemic having led to service disruptions for Public Health’s regular programming, student immunizations have not been verified by the agency for the last three school years. To get back on track, Public Health will follow its usual process to enforce the Immunization of School Pupils Act (ISPA), which requires all Ontario students under 18 years of age to be up to date with their immunization records to attend school in person. To start the process, reminder letters will be mailed to all secondary school students for whom Public Health does not have up-to-date immunization records.
“Currently, there are about 4 200 students enrolled in secondary schools across our service area who will receive our letter asking them to update their immunization record with Public Health, or, if not up to date with their vaccinations, to get vaccinated. Parents and guardians may not be aware of immunization gaps and this letter with student-specific information helps us work together to protect students,” said Dr. Imran Adrian Khan, Public Health Physician with Public Health Sudbury & Districts. “We recognize the pandemic caused delays in routine immunizations and that some students may be behind on important vaccinations. Sadly, a lack of vaccine protection can lead to outbreaks of preventable diseases such as the meningitis outbreak that occurred this summer in Toronto—we are focused on helping to prevent this from happening locally,” added Dr. Khan.
Vaccines against diseases that are designated under the Immunization of School Pupils Act are free, safe, and effective, and protect against cases and outbreaks of diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, meningitis, pertussis, and chickenpox. Of significant concern to Public Health is that some students may be approaching post-secondary opportunities without protection against vaccine preventable diseases. Under the ISPA, the Medical Officer of Health can also issue suspension orders to students with out-of-date immunization records, preventing them from attending school in person until their records are updated.
Public Health will initially focus on students in secondary schools, including those with Grade 7 and 8 classes, and the first round of reminder letters will start on January 16, 2023. Students in elementary schools must also be up to date with their immunization records. Notification letters for these students will be mailed out as soon as Public Health has the capacity to do so. In the meantime, parents and guardians are urged to ensure their child’s immunizations are up to date and reported to Public Health.
“We are using a phased approach over the coming months. The first letter we send is a reminder that a student’s record on file with Public Health is showing that they are not up to date for immunization. This could mean that their most recent records have not been received, or that they are overdue for one or more vaccines. Four weeks later, we will send a second letter that specifies the date the student may be suspended if appropriate documentation is not submitted,” explained Hannah Ballantyne, Vaccine Preventable Diseases program manager with Public Health.
Under the ISPA, Public Health must collect and maintain immunization records for all students under 18 years of age in its service area. In Ontario, parents and guardians are responsible for reporting immunizations for their school-aged children to a public health unit. Of note, health care providers do not automatically report immunizations for their patients to Public Health.
Please refer to Ontario’s Publicly Funded Immunization Schedule for information about vaccinations your child can receive free of charge to have the best protection.
How to check or update your child’s immunization records
- CHECK: Check your child’s immunization record for any missing vaccines by referring to the Immunization Connect Ontario (ICON) website (Government of Ontario).
- VACCINATE: Ensure your child receives any missing immunizations by making an appointment with your health care provider or with Public Health.
- UPDATE: Update your child’s immunization record with Public Health using one of the following methods:
- Visit Immunization Connect Ontario (ICON) website (Ontario Government).
- Send an email to ISPA@phsd.ca (Public Health). *Requires consent to be used to send personal or personal health information.
- Call Public Health at 705.522.9200, ext. 458 (toll-free 1.866.522.9200).
- Send a fax to 705.522.5182 (Public Health’s confidential fax).
Public health nurses are available to your answer questions by phone, email, and in person. Appointments for immunizations are available throughout Public Health’s service area during regular business hours. Evening and weekend appointments may be offered in the coming months to better serve our communities, and updates about these will be shared with the community as opportunities arise.
For more information on immunization requirements or exemptions, parents and guardians can call Public Health Sudbury & Districts at 705.522.9200, ext. 458 (toll-free 1.866.522.9200), email email@example.com, or visit phsd.ca.