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Protecting Students from Vaccine Preventable Diseases

Jan 30, 2013
Immunization against childhood diseases is one of the greatest public health success stories in history.

Immunization against childhood diseases is one of the greatest public health success stories in history. Most people in Canada today have never seen a child with a life threatening case of a vaccine preventable disease such as measles, pertussis or tetanus because most children get immunized against these diseases. These high vaccination rates help to significantly reduce the risk of outbreaks.

While parents often consider the risks of immunizing their children, they also need to consider the risks of not immunizing. Immunization is arguably the most effective, lowest cost and safest intervention to improve health. In fact, the risks associated with vaccines are extremely small, much lower than the severe, and sometimes life threatening, consequences of the diseases they prevent.

In Ontario, the Immunization of School Pupils Act protects children who attend school from vaccine preventable diseases. Under this legislation, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit requires up-to-date immunization records for all children enrolled in elementary and secondary schools within Simcoe County and the District of Muskoka.

A survey conducted by the health unit in 2010 revealed that almost everyone (99 per cent) is aware of this law, but only 50 per cent of respondents are aware that it is the responsibility of the parent to update the health unit of their child’s immunization status. Having this information on file is very important as it allows the health unit to identify the children at risk if a vaccine preventable disease appears in a school.

When your child first attends school in Simcoe County or the District of Muskoka, the school will ask for a copy of their yellow immunization card, which will be shared with the health unit. Parents can then provide immunization updates to the health unit in a variety of ways:

  • By calling 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520 and speaking with a public health nurse
  • By mailing the information to 15 Sperling Drive, Barrie, ON, L4M 6K9
  • By faxing the information to 705-721-1495
  • By dropping the information off at any health unit office or
  • By using a secure online form to submit the information at simcoemuskokahealth.org/immsonline.

    The health unit works diligently with schools and parents to avoid suspensions, which only occur after failed attempts to get updated records. Parents can help prevent student suspensions by ensuring the health unit is updated every time their child receives a new immunization, or by providing the proper exemption paperwork if their child is not immunized.

    If your child is due for an immunization, you can book an appointment with your health care provider or at a health unit immunization clinic.  For more information about child immunization schedules and the importance of up-to-date student records, visit simcoemuskokahealth.org, or call Your Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to book an appointment or speak with a public health nurse.

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    Dr. Gardner is Simcoe Muskoka’s medical officer of health.


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