Toronto's board of health will ask province to make COVID vaccines mandatory for students

Though Health Canada has yet to approve any vaccines for the 5-11 age group, Toronto Public Health is already preparing its rollout plan.

City has also formed group to plan roll out of shots to kids in the 5-11 age group

Toronto is putting together plans to vaccinate children over the age of five, though no vaccines have been approved for them at this point. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Toronto's board of health will ask the province to add COVID-19 vaccines to the list of mandatory vaccines for students under the Immunization of School Pupils Act.

Dr. Eileen de Villa, medical officer of health for Toronto, had written to the board of health this month, asking it to request that the province require COVID-19 vaccination for eligible students based on their age.

On Monday, the board adopted her recommendation. 

In her Sept. 13 letter to the board of health, de Villa referenced the nine other diseases covered under the act, which students enrolled in school must be vaccinated against. They include polio, mumps and rubella

COVID-19 is currently not one of those designated diseases

De Villa wrote in her letter that the safety and effectiveness of approved vaccines has been proven in children 12 and older.

"Given the current epidemiology of COVID-19 and the need to support the safe re-opening of schools, it recommended that the province require COVID-19 vaccination for students who are eligible based on their age/year of birth," she wrote.

Her recommendation came after the chair of the Toronto District School Board, Alexander Brown, requested the Ontario government add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required vaccinations in a letter addressed to de Villa, Education Minister Stephen Lecce and Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore.

When asked about the issue on Monday morning, Health Minister Christine Elliott acknowledged her government is considering the move.

"We're going to take a look at anything that is going to protect people, including young people," she said. 

Moore has also said the province is looking into adding COVID-19 vaccinations to the list of those required for students by law, which allows for some exemptions.

Group formed to prepare for rollout

Toronto Public Health has also formed a group to plan for COVID-19 vaccinations of children aged five to 11.

It says the city is home to 200,000 children in that age cohort.

The unit says health partners, school boards, representatives from the community, and the provincial Health Ministry are involved in the planning.

Mayor John Tory says the group is being assembled now so children can be vaccinated as soon as possible after Health Canada approves a COVID-19 shot for them.

Children born after 2009 are currently not eligible to receive any of the COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada.

Ontario health units are responsible for administering COVID-19 shots with guidance from the provincial government.

With files from the Canadian Press