Hundreds of Ottawa students suspended over immunization records

Ottawa Public Health has suspended almost 1,000 high school students because of improper immunization records, with hundreds more potentially on the way.

20-day suspensions last until proof of shots can be shown

Almost 1,000 of Ottawa’s high school students have been suspended for improperly-kept immunization records.

About 900 students have been sent home for 20 days for not having the records, not necessarily for not having their shots.

Ottawa Public Health said the provincial Immunization of School Pupils Act gives them the power to suspend students until they can show they’ve been immunized.

The city’s associate medical director of health said students who are potentially not immunized from certain diseases pose a threat to more than just themselves.

"England right now has a huge problem with measles, that’s because of low immunization rates. So we need high immunization rates to protect not only the students, but the people around them," said Dr. Carolyn Pim.

"The suspension part of it is very harsh, but it gives us an opportunity to talk to the parents … about updating their children’s immunization, ultimately not only protecting the kids but also their families and close associates."

A third and final warning letter has been sent to 800 more students, who will be suspended next week if they can’t produce up-to-date paperwork.

Proof of immunization or special exemptions can end suspensions

The city said in an e-mail that roughly 18,000 warning letters were sent to parents in November.

A second group of reminders was sent to 8,000 parents of students with improper records in February, with a third wave of 5,000 sent in March.

About 1,700 students are either suspended or facing suspension at the moment.

Ottawa Public Health said the suspensions will be called off once students show proof they’ve been immunized or if the parents apply for a special medical, religious or conscience exemption.

That exemption would require a government form with the parent ‘s signature witnessed by an Ontario Commissioner for Taking Affidavits.

However, the act in question states the medical officer of health can order students without proper records to stay away from schools in case of an outbreak.

The suspensions are coming to light during Canada’s Immunization Awareness Week.