546 students suspended over vaccination records: Lambton Public Health

A record 546 students were suspended this year over incomplete vaccination records, Lambton Public Health says.

A record 546 students were suspended this year over incomplete vaccination records, Lambton Public Health says.

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As of Tuesday morning, 156 high school students were suspended, and 390 elementary pupils were suspended March 5for a total of 546, the agency’s Shaun Bisson said by email.

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The next closest year was 2017, with 381 suspensions under Ontario’s Immunization of School Pupils Act, he said.

But just nine elementary schoolers remained suspended Tuesday, Bisson said.

Ontario law requires students to be vaccinated — or have a valid exemption — against tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, meningococcal disease and varicella to attend school.

Most years, public health sends out 2,000 to 3,000 first notices, warning families to update immunization records to avoid suspension, Bisson said.

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Usually, the vast majority have up-to-date vaccinations and just need to update their records with public health, officials have said.

This year, 6,199 first notices went out, Bisson said.

The number with outdated records was higher in 2023 — 6,589 — but there were no notices or suspensions as public health maintained a pause in suspensions put in place amid remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2019-20, 98 students who were warned, but didn’t update their records in time, were suspended. That was down from 323 a year earlier.

Whittling down the list this year was a unique challenge, Bisson said.

“We are extremely encouraged by the positive response from parents, caregivers, and students in making sure their records were up to date. . . (which is) key in helping public health prevent and manage outbreaks through community immunity,” he said.

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Efforts over two years by administrators, parents, caregivers and students have been “a tremendous help in creating a safe and healthy learning environment in our schools,” Bisson said.

Suspension last up to 20 daysafter which “the medical officer of health would reassess and determine what to do next,” though getting to that point, health unit officials have said.

The health unit will know how many students have valid exemptions after the suspension process plays out, Bisson said.

People looking to update records should call the health unit’s vaccine call center at 226-254-8222, or visit getthevaccine.ca.

[email protected]

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