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18,643 Waterloo Region students issued suspension notices over out-of-date vaccination records

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Nearly 19,000 elementary school students in Waterloo Region are at risk of suspension over out-of-date vaccination records.

On Monday, local public health announced it had issued suspension orders to 18,643 students. That’s around three times more than a typical pre-pandemic year, according to public health.

Families who received notice now have six weeks to update their child’s vaccination records, obtain necessary vaccines, or apply for an exemption before the suspension orders take effect on March 27. Students who don’t will be suspended for up to 20 days.

“The intent is not to suspend children,” said Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, medical officer of health for the Region of Waterloo. “The intent is to raise the level of immunization among children to protect them from these vaccine preventable diseases, which we are unfortunately starting to see more of now.”

Wang said it’s not surprising the number of students with out-of-date records has increased, given this is the first year public health is enforcing vaccination requirements since before the pandemic.

“It was often challenging for parents to keep their children’s vaccines up to date during the pandemic due to things like office closures at their primary care physicians,” she explained.

What vaccines are required?

Under the provincial requirements, all students must be vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, meningitis, whooping cough and chicken pox, unless they have a valid exemption.

Parents and/or caregivers are responsible for reporting their child’s vaccinations – or filing an exemption – with public health.

Wang said public health suspects around two-thirds of those 18,643 students actually have the required vaccines, they just haven’t updated their records.

Catch-up clinics have also been launched to help students missing necessary vaccines.

Suspension orders for high school students will be issued later this year.

In January, public health said 22,000 elementary and 10,000 secondary students had outdated vaccinated records.

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