Ottawa

Ottawa Public Health not monitoring school immunization records

Ottawa Public Health has not been monitoring immunization records collected at schools for the past two years — even though it is mandated by the province to do so.

Officials blame cost of implementing new web-based program to track immunizations

Ottawa Public Health isn't suspending vaccine-free students

8 years ago
Duration 2:39
OPH hasn't suspended any students for not having vaccines for two years because it has temporarily stopped keeping track of those records.

Ottawa Public Health has not been monitoring immunization records it collects from schools for the past two years — even though it is mandated by the province to do so.

Public health officials said that the cost and time involved in implementing a new federal web-based program administered by the province called Panorama to track immunizations is to blame. After 10 years of planning, it was launched last July.

The department receives the records of 150,000 students from Ottawa's four school boards. Without surveillance, the department doesn't know if a student's vaccinations are up to date and whether, overall, immunization levels are dropping.

"Vaccines are one of the most effective public health interventions that there are," said Sherry Nigro, who manages disease prevention at Ottawa Public Health.

Nigro said students who have not had the nine required vaccinations can be suspended. But since there has not been record surveillance in two years, that isn't happening.

"So it is a concern. It's a challenge and it's not ideal," Nigro said.

The lack of monitoring comes as there has been a recent increase in measles and whooping cough cases, she said.

Dr. Doug Manuel is an Ottawa researcher and community public health doctor.

"As a physician myself, I'm very troubled we don't have a modern registry working. I am disappointed for our field, to be honest, but with the current levels of funding we can't do everything," he said.

Still, Nigro said parents should not worry, and that if an outbreak were to hit a particular school, public health officials would be able to identify which students have not been vaccinated quickly.

"We've put a number of contingencies in place so the community should be confident if there is any threat to the community," she said.

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