The Woolwich Observer

Number of suspension­s fall as vaccine records updated

- Julian Gavaghan


Waterloo Region remained suspended due to out-ofdate vaccine records two weeks after the classroom ban began.

Public health officials said the number of children who still had to stay home had dropped within the last week to 410 from 1,415 amid a scramble by parents to register shots.

David Aoki, the region’s director of infectious disease and chief nursing officer, said he is hopeful most of these will be back in school by April 25 when the ban ends.

“We’re still making progress and historical­ly we haven’t had a lot of students who missed all 20 school days, and that’s our goal this year too,” he said.

The new figures were released as the region announced it had sent letters to 6,819 high school students threatenin­g suspension if they don’t log the required vaccines by May 1.

That is double the number who received the same order the last time Ontario’s Immunizati­on of School Pupils Act was enforced five years ago, before COVID-19 spread to Canada.

Aoki said many facing suspension had not received the meningitis shot that is routinely given in schools to Grade 7 students because they were forced to stay home during the pandemic.

He also said others were missing their Tdap booster for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis that is given between the ages of 14 and 16, a decade after first receiving the vaccine.

“Five years have passed since we’ve actively requested these records and so there’s a large number of students who have been missed,” Aoki added.

He pointed out that the 2,969 elementary students suspended on March 27, including 122 from the 11 schools in Woolwich and Wellesley, was roughly three times the 2019 number.

“From notices to suspension­s, it almost tripled across the board for everything,” he explained.

“And we’re seeing that with secondarie­s. It’s about double what we saw the last time we did this.”

He said the gap was smaller with high schoolers because more vaccines are given when children are young, meaning there is more to miss.

But he added that not enforcing suspension­s for five years meant families were less likely to submit details of their children’s shots.

Last week, The Observer told how frustrated parents had struggled to log the vaccines, with some even saying their children had been suspended despite recording inoculatio­ns months earlier.

Others complained about how difficult it was to book an appointmen­t online and said it was impossible to phone the region’s officials.

But Aoki said he is confident that Region of Waterloo Public Health’s offices in Waterloo and Cambridge can handle both demand for the required shots on site and to register vaccines that students have been given already.

“In the next two weeks, we have over 2,000 appointmen­ts available or open for secondary students,” he said.

“There’s lots of room where parents can go on our website and choose an appointmen­t that works for them. We’re expecting them to, because we want to make sure that secondary students are not suspended.

“So, if they are missing a shot and they just need to get it, then we want those appointmen­ts filled because we have the capacity to do so.”

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