A total of 5,063 public elementary students were suspended in Toronto this school year after getting caught in what one doctor called, a “1970s-style, cumbersome process.”
The number of students suspended amounted to 7 per cent of the 73,262 elementary students in 586 Toronto public elementary schools assessed by Toronto Public Health from July to mid-December 2017. That’s a jump from 5.6 per cent last year.

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“All of the students who were suspended either didn’t meet the immunization requirements as they were not up-to-date, their records were not filed on time, or they did not have a valid exemption,” said Dr. Vinita Dubey, associate medical officer at Toronto Public Health.

All the students are back in school and up-to-date on their immunizations, said Dubey.

Immunization requirements changed this year for children born in 2010 (currently Grade 2 students), said Dubey, who now require two doses of varicella (for chicken pox) to attend school under the Immunization of School Pupils Act.
It is estimated that the varicella vaccine in children will offer 85 per cent protection after the first dose and 98 per cent after the second dose, said Ontario Ministry of Health spokesperson Laura Gallant in an email.
“As a result of this change, the number of Grade 2 students who were outstanding was higher than previous years,” said Dubey.
Last year, 46,726 elementary students were assessed in 584 schools; 2,622 (5.6 per cent) students were suspended.
Upon initial assessment, 25,653 of the assessed students were found to have out of date immunization records, and a first notice was sent to parents. A second notice was sent to 18,622 students three weeks later. A suspension order was then sent to 11,974 students, letting their parents know the date that their child would be suspended if Toronto Public Health did not receive updated information.

“The number of suspensions depends on the number of students who are assessed,” said Dubey, adding that not all students are assessed each year.
“We increase the numbers to match our staff capacity to handle the volume of work generated,” said Dubey.
Dr. Fatima Kamalia, a Thornhill-based pediatrician, has noticed an increase to the number of kids coming in for “emergency vaccination.”
“Those that get the (suspension)…they’re the ones that just missed the (deadline),” said Kamalia. “It’s more negligence on the parent’s part, not a deliberate decision to not vaccinate.”
Kamalia said that part of the problem is that there’s no system for doctors to remind parents about their kid’s immunization, and no system for parents to keep updated about it.
“No one has a record of (vaccination shots) except the hospital,” she said. “There’s no system that allows access of data by hospitals, public health, schools, and physicians.”

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