With the increasing re-emergence of vaccine-preventable diseases globally, like measles, York Regional Council endorsed the position of the Council of the Ontario Medical Officers of Health in support of a centralized immunization registry in the Province of Ontario. The registry would allow for the seamless reporting of immunization information by all health care providers at the time of administration.
“We are facing an increase in vaccine-preventable diseases in York Region,” said York Region Chairman and CEO Wayne Emmerson. “York Regional Council is committed to creating and maintaining safe, healthy communities and the more people who are immunized, the fewer opportunities a disease has to spread.”
Under the Immunization of School Pupils Act, all children under age 18 attending school must maintain an up-to-date immunization record with their local public health unit. These immunizations include measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, meningococcal diseases, pertussis (whooping cough) and varicella (chicken pox). Students can be suspended if they do not receive the required vaccinations or if documentation of an exemption is not provided.
Currently children receive most childhood vaccinations through their primary care provider. Parents are provided with an updated record of their child’s vaccinations, typically the yellow immunization card and in turn, are responsible for updating their child’s immunization record with York Region Public Health. Updates can be made by phone, fax or online at eimmunization.york.ca
“Immunization has saved more lives in Canada than any other health initiative in the last 50 years,” said Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s Medical Officer of Health.
When outbreaks occur at York Region schools, Public Health is required to quickly determine students who may be at risk, including those whose immunization history is not up-to-date or those with exemptions, which are available to children who are unable to receive a vaccine for medical reasons or due to conscience/religious beliefs. For students who are under-immunized, often a vaccine can be administered within a set period of time to help prevent them from getting sick. The student may also be removed from school to ensure their safety and the safety of others.
York Region has the third largest student population in Ontario, with more than 194,000 students in 400 schools. Approximately 86 per cent of seven-year-old students in York Region have up-to-date immunizations, which is above the provincial average of 79 per cent. Health units report data for children who are seven years old because most childhood vaccinations are administered by this age.
York Region Public Health uses a number of proactive supports to promote immunization in school-aged children. Outreach includes:
- Sending letters to students at risk of suspension, providing them with information on where they can be vaccinated and vaccines required
- Providing additional evening and school-based immunization clinics across the Region
- Working closely with York Region school boards and physicians
- Staffing dedicated phone lines to respond to questions and concerns from parents
For more information on immunization, contact York Region Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653. More information is available at york.ca/immunizations