TORONTO – Toronto health officials are poised to suspend 320 elementary students because their immunization records are incomplete raising concerns the children have not received all mandatory vaccinations.
“To date, for the 2015-16 school year, Toronto Public Health has mailed out approximately 5,000 suspension orders to elementary students born in 2008 for whom our immunization records are not up-to-date as required by Ontario’s Immunization of School Pupils Act,” Dr. Christine Navarro, associate medical officer of health, said in a statement to the Toronto Sun Friday.
Suspension orders will continue to be mailed out to 584 elementary schools up until Monday, and active suspensions began last week, she said.
The latest crackdown came in the lead up to World Immunization Week, celebrated April 24-30.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says that immunization averts up to 3 million deaths annually, and an additional 1.5 million lives could be saved if the global rate of vaccination is improved.
Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins, a doctor with a background in public health, announced last week that the government will expand its human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine program to boys, too.
HPV causes 254 deaths and 1,094 cases of cancer in Ontario every year, the government says.
The most recent information available shows that immunization rates vary from 74%-97% across the province by vaccine and age. Immunization of school children is mandatory in Ontario unless specific exemptions are sought on medical, religious or conscience grounds.
The Ontario auditor general is among those who have raised red flags about tracking immunization rates, a concern reiterated last year when the province experienced an outbreak of measles.
The government’s goal is to see that as many Ontarians as possible receive vaccinations, Hoskins said.
“The science is clear and there is indisputable evidence that vaccines are both safe and effective,” he said in an e-mail. “We encourage parents to talk to their doctors so they have the information they need to be informed. Not only will it keep their children safe, but it will keep all of us safe.”
Some people challenge the safety and value of vaccines.
Toronto mom Heather Fraser, of Vaccine Choice Canada, said she began to investigate after her own son suffered a “very negative reaction” to vaccination and developed a severe allergy to peanuts in the 1990s.
“At the six-month (vaccine), there was this episode of screaming in severe pain that went on for hours,” said Fraser, whose son received the pentavalent, or five-in-one, vaccine. “I’ve done my research — there are 25,000 pages of adverse events following immunization reports from doctors to that vaccine over three years.”
Parents have no recourse against the vaccine manufacturer if a child is injured, and should do their own research, she said.
“While the government of Ontario … will push and promote and guilt … parents into vaccinating their children, and yet the government takes no responsibility for an adverse event, an injury or a death, following immunization,” Fraser said.
Ontario-wide vaccination coverage
- Diphtheria 74.6%
- Tetanus 74.6%
- Polio 74.2%
- Measles 88.3%
- Mumps 87.9%
- Rubella 95.2%
- Diphtheria 84%
- Tetanus 84%
- Polio 94.3%
- Measles 95.4%
- Mumps 93.7%
- Rubella 97.1%
(Source: Public Health Ontario, 2012-13 school year)