The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) is urging secondary students to provide up-to-date immunization records or submit a medical exemption form or affidavit to the health unit before Sept. 26, 2023, to avoid suspension from school.
Under the Immunization of School Pupils Act (ISPA), public health units are required to maintain vaccine records for every student attending school and enforce suspension for incomplete vaccine information. There are currently still 2,700 outstanding immunization records for students in Grades 11 and 12 across Simcoe Muskoka. Having up to date records allows SMDHU to respond more quickly to prevent and control outbreaks.
Many students were unable to receive their routine immunizations during the COVID-19 pandemic and fell behind with their vaccination schedules. Since the beginning of the year, the health unit has been working with families to update their student’s vaccinations and provide “catch-up” opportunities, offering immunization clinics at health unit offices throughout the region and in schools. Families received the first letter from the health unit in January followed by catch-up clinics offered in each high school. Then a second letter was mailed home in June with many catch-up clinics being offered over the summer.
“We recognize that suspension would be very disruptive to young people and their families and that is why we are advising students and their parents/guardians take immediate action and update their vaccination status to the health unit before the Sept. 26 deadline,” says Dr. Colin Lee, associate medical officer of health at SMDHU. “Having up-to-date immunizations helps to ensure that students have the best protection against serious vaccine preventable diseases and reduces the risk of outbreaks in schools.”
If students have received vaccines through their healthcare provider, they need to report this information to the health unit. This can easily be done online at smdhu.org/immsonline or by calling the health unit’s Health Connection line at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520.
Families who do not have a healthcare provider can attend walk in clinics between September 25th-29th from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at any of the health unit’s offices in Collingwood, Cookstown, Gravenhurst, Huntsville, Midland and Orillia, or at the at 29 Sperling Dr. clinic in Barrie, with no appointment necessary.
Children and youth enrolled in school in Ontario must have proof of immunization against tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella (for those born in 2010 and after) and meningococcal disease, unless there is a valid exemption. Hepatitis B and HPV vaccines are strongly recommended.
For more information about routine and required vaccines given to students and the diseases they prevent, please visit smdhu.org. To speak with a public health professional, call Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520 Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.