London

Which schools have the highest number of kids who've opted out of vaccines?

More than 10 per cent of students at five rural schools on the outskirts of London aren't vaccinated for philosophical or religious reasons, data obtained by CBC News shows.

Five schools in the region have vaccine exemption rates of 10 per cent or higher

The region's health units are responsible for vaccine information sessions. (Fiona Goodall/Getty)

More than 10 per cent of kids at five rural schools on the outskirts of London have opted out of vaccinations for philosophical or religious reasons, data obtained by CBC News shows. 

The schools are in Elgin County and are part of the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB). They are: 

  • East Elgin Secondary School in Aylmer 
  • Kettle Creek Public School in Port Stanley
  • Port Burwell Public School in Port Burwell
  • Springfield Public School in Springfield
  • Summers Corners Public School in Aylmer

East Elgin Secondary School has one of the highest exemption rates for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) and diphtheria, tetanus and polio (DTP) in the region, at 13 per cent.

Only 66 per cent of kids at the Aylmer high school have up to date immunization records filed with Southwestern Public Health, the health unit that covers St. Thomas and the counties of Elgin and Oxford. 

"Most of our schools meet our coverage targets and when we do have infrequent events where an infection is circulating, we have the students who are not covered by a vaccination stay home so they are protected," said Dr. Joyce Lock, Southwestern's medical officer of health. 

Dr. Joyce Lock, medical officer of health for Southwestern Public Health. (Supplied by Southwestern Public Heatlh)

"Vaccines are the best way to prevent a slew of different childhood infections and we work with our health care providers, our schools and with our parents to get high vaccine coverage rates, and in general, for the bulk of the community, we've been successful." 

No schools in London have an exemption rate higher than seven per cent, with most falling below five per cent, numbers from the Middlesex-London Health Unit show.

Schools that have exemption rates between 5 per cent and 7 per cent in London and Middlesex County are: 

  • Adademie de la Tamise
  • Ecole Elementaire Catholique Frere Andre
  • Ecole Secondaire Gabriel-Dumont
  • J.S. Buchanan French Immersion Public School in Strathroy.
  • John Dearness Public School
  • Lester B Pearson School for The Arts
  • Lord Roberts French Immersion Public School
  • McGillivray Central Public school
  • St. David Catholic elementary school
  • St. Mary Choir School
  • Victoria Public School

But the numbers are not a  cause for panic, said Dr. Alex Summers, the associate medical officer of health at the Middlesex-London Health Unit. 

"People might be non-compliant because their records are not up-to-date, so I think these are under-estimates of the true vaccination rates," Summers said. 

Sometimes a little time, respect and conversation can help a doctor change the mind of a vaccinate hesitant parent. 2:02

Most schools in London and the counties have vaccine coverage rates above 85 per cent, with many meeting the target of 95 per cent coverage, the numbers show. 

In London, the school with the lowest coverage rate is the French-language Ecole Secondaire Gabriel-Dumont, which has a coverage rate of just 66.8 per cent for DTP. The school's MMR coverage rate is 92.5 per cent.  

Calls to the French and French-Catholic school boards were not returned.

Counselling session required 

In Elgin and Oxford counties, only 63 per cent of schools met or exceeded the 2025 national immunization coverage goal for DTP, according to statistics provided by Southwestern Public Health, which covers Oxford and Elgin counties and St. Thomas. 

Most schools in that region, or 87 per cent, exceeded that coverage target for MMR immunization. 

Parents who want to exempt their children from immunization must fill out a form and attend a counselling session about the science of vaccines. 

Summers said the health unit has yet to find out if the extra step of a counselling session, recently implemented, has increased vaccination rates. 

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