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Over 18,000 students could be suspended in a single district for not updating their vaccine records
Photo by DAMIEN MEYER/AFP via Getty Images

Over 18,000 students could be suspended in a single district for not updating their vaccine records

More than 18,000 elementary school students were threatened with a suspension from their school district for not having updated vaccine records.

The Region of Waterloo Public Health in Ontario, Canada, issued suspension orders that required young students to get all their necessary vaccines and update their records within a six-week period or face suspension. The region has issued the orders to a total of 18,643 students who have until March 27, 2024, to update their records.

High school students have longer, until May 27, 2024, to receive their vaccine updates, according to Global News, but suspensions may start at the beginning of that month.

Public health representatives claimed that during COVID-19 lockdowns, there was a decline in parents staying up to date with their child's repeat vaccine doses. This included shots for measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, meningococcal, pertussis (whooping cough), and varicella (chicken pox).

Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, the medical officer of health for the region, used language very similar to that of the COVID-19 vaccination push. Wang said in a press release that "vaccination protects kids and keeps schools healthy by stopping the spread of serious and preventable disease."

"Children who are not vaccinated are at increased risk of getting infections and spreading diseases to others. The enforcement of the Immunization of School Pupils Act is critical for ensuring the health and well-being of our community," the doctor added.

The number of students facing discipline was cut nearly in half since the region made a previous threat of suspensions in January 2024. At that time, 32,000 students were facing suspensions over their records, prompting regional officials to expand vaccine clinic times and advertise their services in certain areas.

The messaging included nearly identical tag lines, including "vaccination protects kids and keeps schools healthy by stopping the spread of serious and preventable disease. Children who are not vaccinated are at increased risk of getting infections and spreading diseases to others."

"We are working closely with local school boards and our community partners to reach as many families as possible. Our priority is to keep kids healthy and in school," said David Aoki, director of infectious diseases and chief nursing officer for public health.

Another 10,000 students in nearby Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph were encouraged to get vaccines at clinics at public health offices and even in their schools. High school students in that region have since passed their deadline to update their records.

All elementary and secondary school students are required to provide their proof of vaccination under the Immunization of School Pupils Act, state broadcaster CBC News reported.

The province provides guidance for 20 different routinely issued state-funded vaccines. The guidance includes recommendations for doses at certain ages, depending on the inoculation. In total, there are 24 vaccination schedules for different age groups listed.

Vaccine exemptions must be reported to state health officials, as well.

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