Article by Valerie Macdonald

Health Unit legally required to ensure students fully vaccinated

The majority of the 600 or so students who have received school suspensions from the tri-county health unit attend Northumberland public and Catholic schools, says a spokesperson for the Haliburton, Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit.

“At least 230 of the suspension notices were issued to students attending public schools in Northumberland,” Bill Eekhof said. “There were also 100 issued to students enrolled in the local Catholic school board.”

The health unit covers Northumberland and Halliburton Counties, plus the City of Kawartha Lakes.

In order to attend school, Ontario students must be fully vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps rubella, pertussis (whooping cough), varicella (chickenpox) and meningococcal disease. If any of the vaccines are missing (or not reported to the Health Unit), a suspension notice can be issued,” Eekhof said.

 “We encourage parents to contact the Health Unit right away to update their vaccination records. Doing so immediately will avoid any risk of school suspensions for their students.”

“The suspensions will take effect in late April.”

Marianne Rock, Manager of the local health unit’s communicable disease prevention and control, states in a media release that school suspensions are only issued as a “last resort” and only when students and their families “have not updated their vaccination records with the Health Unit… We encourage families who receive these suspension orders to contact us immediately so vaccination records can be updated and students won’t have to miss a day of class.”

“The last thing the Health Unit wants to do is suspend students, but we are legally required to ensure students attending school are fully vaccinated against certain vaccine-preventable diseases.”

Rock explained that “students can be vaccinated by their doctor or Health Unit nurses. Students can also be exempted from vaccination for medical reasons and issues of conscience or religious belief.”

At the beginning of this year, there were 2,500 students in the tri-county area whose vaccinations records were out of date and the health unit has been working with families to reduce the numbers, the release stated.