The Immunization of School Pupils Act (ISPA) enforces vaccination for Waterloo Region students against tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, and diphtheria. But with misconceptions about vaccination running rampant, and diseases like measles flaring up for the first time in decades, Region of Waterloo Public Health needs to work extra hard to prevent disease outbreak.
“We try to educate daily with all of our phone calls that we take on our info line, but we also work closely with family doctors and the school boards to get our information out,” said Linda Black, manager of vaccine preventable diseases for Public Health.
“We’re reviewing how we’re communicating our messages. This year, we’ll be doing a lot of online promotions. We’ll be doing some information on school websites, and hopefully working with the communications department in the school board to ramp up.”
Last week, the department mailed immunization record requests for students without complete records, and beginning May 7 will enforce the legislation at secondary schools. Parents will need to send proof of immunization directly to the region. Without an immunization record, students may be given a 20-day suspension.
However, Public Health will be allowing un-vaccinated students with a legal exception. “Any student can get an exemption based on religion, philosophical, conscience, or medical [reasons]. They have to be signed by a commissioner, and when we get that form, we input it in our system so we know who is up to date and who is not.”
If there’s an outbreak in a school, students without vaccination will be excluded from school. “If they were exposed, I think there would be some quarantining in effect to make sure they don’t show symptoms,” Black added.
Walk-in clinics will be open Monday to Friday, 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Public Health’s Waterloo office (99 Regina St. S., 2nd floor), as well as Fridays at the Cambridge office (150 Main St.). Immunization records can be submitted at e-immunization.regionofwaterloo.ca, by phoning 519-575-4400, or at the Waterloo or Cambridge offices.