4,000 elementary students face suspension over vaccine records

More than 4,000 elementary students in Waterloo region could be suspended from school if they don't update their immunization records with the region's public health department by the end of March.

Students have until March 28 to update immunization records with public health

The Region of Waterloo Public Health is offering immunization clinics for the month of March, to help students get their mandatory vaccines before the March 28 deadline.

More than 4,000 elementary students in Waterloo region could be suspended from school if they don't update their immunization records with the region's public health department by the end of March.

Public health says students who do not provide updated information by the end of business day on March 28 will be suspended from school the following morning.

"Suspension is not the goal," said Karen Quigley-Hobbs, the director of infectious diseases for public health. "Our goal of the enforcement activity is really to ensure that we have up to date records in our system."

With up to date information, Quigley-Hobbs says public health is able to efficiently manage outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

"We would be able to go to the system and be able to identify what our level of protection was for schools, classrooms, etc." she said. "Also, we would be able to identify students that haven't been immunized and they would either be asked to stay home, depending on the disease, or notified that this was in the classroom."

Reason for high numbers

The number of suspension orders — 4,442 in total — is similar to the number of orders that were sent out last year, but much higher than the number of orders sent out in previous years.

Quigley-Hobbs said the reason for that can be traced back to changes made in 2014, when the province introduced a new system for collecting data and put three new vaccines on the list of mandatory immunizations.

As a result of those changes, public health did not send out suspension orders during the 2014-2015 school year, and many students did not update their records. Quigley-Hobbs said there are still a few students who have to catch up.

Also, rather than make all three of the new vaccines mandatory during the 2015-2016 school year, the department decided to spread things out. It made the pertussis vaccine mandatory for the first year, and then added the meningococcal and varicella vaccines for the current school year. Quigley-Hobbs said some students may still need to get those new vaccines.

To avoid suspension, students need to update their vaccination records with public health, which can be done online, by fax, by phone or in person at the department's Waterloo or Cambridge offices. 

Students who have not received the mandatory vaccines can either fill out a statement of conscience or religious belief, a statement of medical exemption, or be immunized by a family doctor or at one of public health's immunization clinics.

Looking for a immunization clinic? 

99 Regina Street South, Waterloo

  • March 10, 8:45 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
  • March 13, 8:45 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
  • March 16, 12:15 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
  • March 17, 8:45 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
  • March 23, 12:15 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
  • March 24, 8:45 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
  • March 27, 8:45 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
  • March 28, 8:45 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
  • March 29, 8:45 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
  • March 30, 8:45 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
  • March 31, 8:45 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

150 Main Street in Cambridge.

  • March 10, 8:45 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
  • March 14, 12:15 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
  • March 17, 8:45 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
  • March 23, 12:15 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
  • March 24, 8:45 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
  • March 27, 8:45 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
  • March 28, 8:45 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
  • March 29, 8:45 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
  • March 30, 8:45 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
  • March 31, 8:45 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Elementary school principals with both the public and Catholic school boards will be sending suspension orders home with affected students the week of March 8.

Suspension orders for high school students will be sent out in April, with the suspension date for those students set for May 3.