Healthy Schools Department (Immunization)
November 9, 2020
Student Immunization Catch-Up Plan (Grade 7/8)
By law, the Immunization of Schools Pupils Act (ISPA) R.S.O.1990 requires children and adolescents attending primary or secondary school to be appropriately immunized against designated diseases, unless they have a valid exemption. Local public health units are mandated to keep and assess immunization records for every student attending school in their region, and provide provincially funded immunization programs through school-based clinics.
Due to COVID-19, a novel highly contagious respiratory virus, the Ontario Government closed all publicly funded schools from March to September 2020. As a result of these closures, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) could not implement the spring school-based immunization clinics scheduled for grade 7/8 students. In order to support widespread availability of publicly funded vaccines to protect children from Hepatitis B, HPV, and Meningococcal Disease (Men-C-ACYW135), the WECHU has been working collaboratively with local healthcare providers to ensure students have access to these vaccines in the community. Since May 2020, the WECHU vaccine distribution team has fulfilled school-based vaccine orders from community healthcare providers to administer catch-up vaccines for 1383 students.
The WECHU will be hosting a series of catch-up clinics beginning on November 2, 2020 to service families with children born in 2006/2007 that were not able to receive their school-based immunizations from the WECHU in spring 2020 or their primary healthcare provider during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. These clinics are part of a larger Healthy Schools Department strategy aimed at reducing barriers for clients, especially priority populations; and ultimately decreasing the number of students that are behind on their vaccinations. Families will be able to book an appointment during the day, afternoons, evenings, and weekends at the Windsor or Leamington office, or a convenient location in the community. The WECHU will be preparing tailored communications to update families, healthcare providers, school board liaisons, and school administrators regarding options available to students who require immunizations.
The WECHU is also in the process of adapting the delivery method of our immunization education sessions under the Immunization of School Pupils Act (ISPA) to an e-Learning format. Since 2017, a mandatory immunization education session has been a requirement under the ISPA O.Reg 645 for parents seeking a non-medical exemption for their child. These education sessions were historically required to be delivered in-person, but the Ministry of Health has recently eliminated this requirement. Currently, there are about 50 clients on our waiting list.