Under the Immunization of School Pupils Act (ISPA), all students attending primary or secondary school are required to provide proof of immunization against nine infectious diseases (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), poliomyelitis, measles, mumps, rubella, meningococcal disease, and varicella (chickenpox)). Children for whom the public health unit does not have required immunization records or a valid exemption may be temporarily suspended from school until the required records are provided. Exemptions may be for rare medical reasons identified by a physician or a personal decision notarized by a Commissioner of Oaths.
The health unit obtains the most accurate data for calculating vaccine coverage, by conducting targeted immunization surveillance in partnership with schools. This data is then used to enforce suspension for incomplete records. Immunization information is not automatically provided to the health unit from doctors’ offices or schools. It is a parent/guardian’s responsibility to provide immunization data to the health unit.
The health unit is required to report vaccine coverage for the designated diseases to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
The figure below shows the percentage of Simcoe Muskoka children ages 7 and 17 years across the region in public and private schools who were vaccinated against childhood diseases in the 2015-16 school year.
The coverage for these diseases is between 92% and 94% for 7/8 year olds. A ten-year booster for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) is recommended between the age of 14 and 16 years which may account for the lower Tdap coverage rate in 16/17 year olds. As of the 2014-15 school year, meningococcal disease required proof of immunization. Lower vaccine coverage for this disease in 16/17 year olds may relate to the level of awareness of the new requirements for this immunization.
The graphs below show the coverage rates for each immunization required under ISPA over time, in children aged 7/8 years for each school year. The national targets for the majority of diseases under ISPA are 99% coverage. Meningococcal disease’s coverage target is 90%. Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) coverage has remained relatively stable in the 7/8 year old cohorts for the past four years. Coverage for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) as well as polio has increased over the past five years. Meningococcal disease coverage has fluctuated over the past five years but has remained above the national target for the past two years.
For the number of vaccine preventable diseases in Simcoe Muskoka, see the HealthSTATS page on vaccine preventable diseases.
In Simcoe Muskoka, exemptions had remained stable in the 2000s at 2-3% of all children. However, slight increases have been observed in recent years. In 2015-16 school years, 5.0% of 7-year olds and 3.7% of 17 year olds had an exemption for at least one required immunization. The majority of these exemptions are for philosophical reasons, rather than medical reasons.
Unvaccinated children are at risk of getting serious diseases so parents seeking information about exemptions should access reliable, evidence based sources such as:
As explained on the Vaccine Coverage page, the health unit strives to maintain accurate immunization on all school children in Simcoe Muskoka. However, there is a small percentage of students in suspension schools for which the health unit does not have information. Consequently, the sum of the coverage plus the exemption percentages may not equal 100%. The above coverage rates are estimates, based on the most recent data available to the health unit.
Proof of immunization against meningococcal disease became a requirement in the 2014-15 school year.
National Targets were set by the National Immunization Strategy.
Coverage rates do not include students with an exemption. While these students are in compliance with the Immunization of School Pupils Act, they are not immunized against the disease(s) in question.