On Thursday October 28, 2021, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore indicated during a news briefing that the Province of Ontario would not be adding COVID-19 to the list of nine diseases that public school students must be immunized against.
Currently, there is no requirement for eligible students to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 for school attendance. Schools are a high-risk setting for COVID-19 and other communicable diseases as they bring together large numbers of individuals for long and extended periods of time increasing the likelihood transmission of certain diseases. As of November 15th, there have been more than 450 cohorts of students dismissed through schools and daycares due to COVID-19 exposure. The Immunization of School Pupils Act (Ministry of Health, 2021)requires that children and youth attending school be immunized against designated diseases, unless they have a valid exemption. The addition of COVID-19 as a ”designated disease” within the Immunization of School Pupils Act would support a number of important public health priorities including:
- Increased uptake of the vaccine, providing protection for those who are too young or medically unable to be vaccinated in school communities and beyond. This will result in a safer learning environment for students, staff, their families and the broader community.
- A systematic framework for parental vaccine education.
Vaccines are the safest and most efficient way to guard against communicable diseases and prevent outbreaks. The Immunization of School Pupils Act (ISPA) R.S.O. 1990 (Ministry of Health, 2021) requires that specified vaccines to be given for a child to attend school in Ontario making sure that all school aged children are protected from vaccine preventable diseases. Currently under the ISPA, students must be immunized against measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, meningococcal, varicella and polio, or have a valid Medical, or Conscience or Religious Belief exemption on file at the Health Unit. There is no cost for vaccines covered by the publicly funded immunization program in Ontario.
Whereas available COVID-19 vaccines have been approved by Health Canada to be safe and effective for students born in 2009 or earlier; and
Whereas additional approval by Health Canada to vaccinate individuals born after 2009 with COVID-19 vaccine is anticipated by the end of 2021; and
Whereas the COVID-19 pandemic is a global pandemic;
Whereas the Windsor-Essex region has been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic; and
Whereas the Windsor-Essex region has lower rates of vaccination against COVID-19 particularly among eligible children and youth; and
Whereas the purpose of the Immunization of School Pupils Act is to increase the protection of the health of children against the diseases that are designated diseases; and
Whereas the IPSA requires that students be immunized for “designated diseases”: diphtheria, measles, mumps, poliomyelitis, rubella, and tetanus, unless a specific exemption is sought through the act.
Now therefore be it resolved that the Windsor-Essex County Board of Health recommends that the Province of Ontario amend the Immunization of School Pupils Act to include COVID-19 as a “designated disease”.
Ministry of Health. (2021, April 19). Immunization of School Pupils Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. | .1. Retrieved from Government of Ontario Laws: ontario.ca/laws/statute/90i01