October 31, 2019
Being fully immunized protects against many communicable diseases, like measles and polio that can be quite serious and are easily spread in our community, especially in our schools. The Immunization of School Pupils Act (ISPA) is an important piece of legislation that requires students to be immunized against certain diseases or to have a valid exemption on file with each public health unit. Ontario’s Publicly Funded Immunization Schedule outlines what immunizations are required for students aged 4 to 17 attending school in Ontario. “Herd immunity” develops when enough people in your community are immunized against a disease to prevent its spread, thus protecting those that are most vulnerable and are unable to have a vaccine due to medical reasons.
Each year the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit conducts immunization record assessments for students in JK, for students 7 and 17 years of age. Being aware of our vaccine coverage rates (those that have protection against these diseases) and those who are not immunized, allows the Health Unit to act swiftly should cases of a communicable disease occur in the school setting to prevent additional cases.
The School Immunization Coverage Rates in the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit Region report indicates school-specific immunization coverage for Diphtheria, Tetanus, Polio, Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccinations for students in the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark region aged 7 to 17 during the 2018/19 school year (enrolment numbers used are calculated based on cohort data which targets specific groups and does not reflect total board/school enrolment). It also includes exemption rates for philosophical or religious reasons.
The 2018/19 school year had an overall coverage rate for Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Polio vaccine of 87%, and a 94% coverage rate for Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine.
High schools students had lower immunization rates than elementary students (68% versus 92%) for Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Polio. This is a pattern seen across the province and illustrates the challenge of accessing immunization records for this population after their 14–16 year old booster. To help support families to provide this information, the Health Unit will have a team of nurses and administrative assistants following up more closely this year to ensure that records are obtained and offer on-line methods to supply the information.
Under the Immunization of School Pupils Act, parents are able to request an exemption due to their philosophical or religious beliefs. All of these parents attend a session that provides scientific immunization information and an opportunity to ask questions about immunizations before signing an affidavit for the exemptions. Students are also excluded from having the required immunizations with a medical exemption completed by a health care provider.
To learn more about our ISPA Surveillance Program and how to provide your child’s immunization information to us, please go to our Immunization/School Requirements page or call 1-800-660-5853.
For media interviews, contact: Susan Healey, Communications Co-ordinator, 613-802-0550