70 Hamilton students suspended over immunization records

Students from 20 elementary schools in the Hamilton area were suspended in December for not providing updated immunization records in the first wave of seven checks to be done by the city.

Only the first 20 schools checked, 160 more to go

Forty-five percent of immunization records surveyed at licensed daycares by Ottawa Public Health in the summer of 2017 were incomplete. (CBC)

Hamilton's school boards suspended 70 students from 20 schools in December for not providing updated immunization records in the first wave of checks to be done by the city.

That first wave captured just 20 of the 180 total public, Catholic and private elementary, secondary and french-speaking schools in Hamilton.

Hamilton Public Health notified parents on Nov. 9 that their child's record was incomplete. After the first round of checks, 592 notices were sent out, and parents were given three weeks to get back to Public Health with the updated records, said acting manager of Public Health's vaccine program Lorraine Grypstra.

Just fewer than half of those students' records were not sent back in the three weeks, so the medical officer sent orders to the schools to suspend 277 students on Dec. 11 at 4:30 p.m, said Grypstra.

By the time that deadline hit, records for 70 students remained incomplete and those students were suspended, she said.

The maximum a student can be suspended over incomplete records is 20 days, then the medical officer must decide if the student can return back to school.

However, Grypstra says that by Dec. 21, the schools, "had almost everyone back in school. (The suspensions were) pretty effective."

The check on these 20 schools is just the first of seven rounds of checks at Hamilton schools. The next six will cover the remaining schools. In total, Public Health will be screening over 11,000 records this school year, and have just sent out 801 initial notices for the second wave of screenings.

The final wave will start at the end of April and will finish in June, said Grypstra.

The 36 local public health units in Ontario are required to maintain immunization records for school pupils, and can ask boards to issue suspension warnings to parents in an effort to get them to make sure their children's vaccines are up to date.

Often the vaccines are up to date but not the actual immunization records because some boards update the data immediately following school-based clinics, while others wait until the end of the school year to file it with the public health unit.

If parents have received notice that their child's immunization record is incomplete, they can report a completed record by calling 905-540-5250, faxing documents to  905-546-4841, mailing documents, or bringing the proper records in person. For more information on vaccines and how to send in records to Public Health, visit www.hamilton.ca/vaccines.


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