659 elementary school students in Windsor area suspended for incomplete immunization records

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit has suspended 659 elementary school students in the Windsor, Ont., area after determining their immunization records weren't up to date.

Students born between 2008-2011 with incomplete records received notice in the spring

File photo. (CBC)

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit has suspended 659 elementary school students in the Windsor, Ont., area after determining their immunization records weren't up to date.

The health unit reviewed the immunization records of all children registered with boards in the area born between 2008-2011, meaning they're in Grades 1 to 4. The exact schools involved weren't immediately available.

Justin Galpin said he had to get up after only three hours of sleep early Thursday to bring his son to the health unit to correct his paperwork.

Despite the fact students could be suspended for up to 20 days if they do not provide an updated record, Galpin said he's not worried.

"I don't take it too seriously," he said. "I kind of laugh at it and think it's a joke. It's almost like the school is letting him play hooky."

Justin Galpin, left, had to bring his son to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit to update his immunization records Thursday. Galpin said he doesn't take the fact his child was suspended too seriously. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

Galpin added officials never worried about immunizations when he was a child, and he's survived.

"Kids are going to eat a pound of dirt in their life and they need to," said the father. "People want to cover their kids in sanitizer and it's ridiculous."

Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board spokesperson Stephen Fields confirmed 153 students with the board were suspended, despite the health unit starting to send warnings at the end of last school year.

"The health unit has been sending lists on almost a daily basis to principals … and we leave it up to the principals to have those one-on-one conversations," he explained. "But there's always going to be a certain segment of the population that didn't get the memo."

Catholic school board spokesperson Stephen Fields said the health unit has been reminding students to update their immunization records for months. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

On Sept. 1, the health unit sent out 2,317 suspension notifications. There were 1,100 students still with incomplete records early Wednesday.

An earlier suspension took place in in February, when almost 700 Grade 11 and 12 students in Windsor and Essex County were suspended because of incomplete immunization records.

Scores of parents provided the health unit with updated immunization forms late Wednesday afternoon, but 659 students were suspended Thursday morning.

Health units require up-to-date records

The notices sent to families indicated which vaccines were missing from the students' records, how to get in touch with the unit to provide updated information, and how to book an appointment for immunization.

Parents who don't want to vaccinate their children must apply for an exemption.

Health units across Ontario are required to maintain immunization records for students and can ask boards to issue suspensions to parents in order to ensure parents keep their vaccinations up to date.

In order to attend school, students have to show proof of immunization against meningococcal disease, whooping cough, chickenpox, tetanus, diphtheria, poliomyelitis, measles, mumps and rubella.

Galpin said the issue with his son's records came down to a simple typo, so he'll soon been back in class. Still, the two planned to make the most of their day together.

"He's getting the day off of school, so it looks it's gonna be building Legos and go-karts and maybe laser sports," he said. "He's happy."