Health Unit Update: Changes to Vaccine Requirements

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Students to Require Proof of Immunization Against Three More Diseases

Keep students healthy and local schools disease-free. Help to do this by ensuring your student’s immunization records are up-to-date!

Starting on July 1, 2014, the Ontario government is making changes to the Immunization of School Pupils Act. The changes mean that families will be asked to provide proof of a child’s immunization against three additional diseases: meningococcal disease; pertussis (whooping cough); and, for children born 2010 and later, varicella (chickenpox). The number of shots (doses) required for tetanus, diphtheria, polio and mumps has also been updated. Students who are not fully immunized may be suspended from school.

Please check with your health care provider or the local Health Unit to make sure your child has all the vaccines needed to attend school. If your student has followed the recommended immunization schedule, no further vaccines will be required at this time.

Below is some additional information on three new diseases requiring proof of immunization, and details on how to get vaccinated (if needed):

· Meningococcal disease is a serious, life-threatening infection that can cause complications such as hearing loss, kidney problems and brain damage. Meningococcal disease is spread from person-to-person through coughing, sneezing, kissing, sharing eating utensils, food, drinks (e.g. straws, cans, water bottles), or any other way that saliva is directly passed from one person to another.

Meningococcal conjugate (Men-C-ACYW135) vaccine protects against four strains of the disease, and for several years has been optional for Grade 7 students. Now that the vaccine is required, students in Grades 8 to 12 who did not previously get the Men-C-ACYW135 vaccine in Grade 7 must be immunized.

· Pertussis (or whooping cough) is a serious disease that causes children to cough violently, which can result in vomiting and an inability to breathe for short periods of time. Pertussis can also result in life-threatening complications such as pneumonia, brain damage and seizures, especially in babies.

Pertussis is included in the routine immunization schedule, so most children will have been immunized prior to the start of school. The adolescent booster now contains pertussis. If your child is missing this vaccine, or if you are unsure, contact your health care provider.

· Varicella (or chickenpox) is a highly contagious virus that causes raised, itchy red blisters on the body. It can lead to fatigue, mild headaches, high fever, chills and joint pains as well. Some children may also experience more serious complications, including pneumonia, encephalitis or bacterial skin infections (including flesh-eating disease).

All children born in 2010 or later will now be required to have proof of immunization for varicella. Younger children may have received two doses of varicella vaccine recommended at 18 months, and again at four to six years of age. Older children may have been vaccinated or they may have had the disease. If your child is missing this vaccine, or if you are unsure, contact your health care provider.

While everyone is encouraged to get immunized, students can get exemptions from required vaccines for medical reasons, reasons of conscience, or religious beliefs.

For more information, or to update your child’s immunization records, contact the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577 or visit [ ]