For parents with kids in school, September doesn’t just mean the return of homework, packed lunches and morning routines. It’s also a time to make sure their children’s vaccines are up-to-date so they can go back to school healthy – and stay that way. We recently spoke with Dr. Sarah Wilson, a medical epidemiologist with Public Health Ontario to get answers to the questions you need to ask when vaccines and your child’s health is on the line.
1)Why is vaccinating your children so important?
Vaccines help protect against illness and outbreaks in our schools and in our communities. It’s because of safe and effective immunization programs, once-common and deadly childhood diseases, such as smallpox, have been eliminated, while cases of measles, rubella, and others have been drastically reduced.
However, some of these diseases still exist today and can pose a threat without vaccination. In the first few years of life, children are at risk of contracting serious diseases that can be prevented through vaccines. These diseases can cause very serious illness and even death.
2)What do parents need to know about vaccinating their kids?
The best thing parents can do is to be sure to stick to the immunization schedule available on ontario.ca/ChildhoodVaccines. On the site, there is an easy-to-use immunization scheduler to help new parents stay on top of their child’s appointments with their health care provider.
Because most vaccines need more than one dose over time to produce full protection, it’s important to follow the immunization schedule as it ensures the best possible protection against diseases.
If you have questions about vaccines, ask them. Your doctor or public health unit is a source of reliable information.
3)When can parents get their kids vaccinated?
Vaccinations should be given according to the Ontario immunization schedule.
In addition to all the vaccines recommended in infancy and early childhood, you can check out the list below for a rough guide of recommended vaccines for school-age children:
*Between 4 and 6 years of age, children should receive vaccines that protect against the
following diseases: tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, chicken
*In grade 7, children should receive the vaccines that protect against the following diseases:
meningococcal disease, hepatitis b, human papillomavirus (HPV)
*Between 14 and 16 years of age, teens should receive the vaccine that protects against the
following diseases: tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis
4)What vaccinations do kids in Ontario need to have to attend school?
Children in Ontario must have the below vaccinations to attend school (unless there is a valid exemption):
• Meningococcal disease
• Whooping Cough (pertussis)
• Chickenpox (varicella) – required for children born in or after 2010
Parents are required to provide records of their child’s immunization to their local public health unit and update the information when their child receives additional doses of vaccine according to the immunization schedule.
5)What would be a valid exemption?
Under the Immunization of School Pupils Act, children in Ontario are required to be vaccinated against certain diseases in order for them to attend school, unless they have a valid exemption. Children can be exempted from immunization for medical reasons or due to conscience or religious belief.
Starting September 1, 2017, parents or guardians seeking exemptions for reasons of conscience or religious belief will have to go to their public health unit and participate in an education session.
Parents or guardians will have to complete this session as part of the process for obtaining a non-medical vaccine exemption.
This new requirement in Ontario is intended to ensure that parents or guardians who are considering not immunizing their children for non-medical reasons have the information they need to understand the risks of not immunizing their children so they can make an informed choice.
6)What happens if your record isn’t current? How do I update it?
If your child misses a vaccination, or you’re unsure about which vaccines they’ve received, talk to your healthcare provider or your local public health unit. As a parent, you must provide proof of your child’s immunization to your local public health unit and keep immunization information up to date.
7)Where can parents find more information?
Parents should speak to their healthcare provider or their local public health unit about any questions or concerns they have about vaccines. There’s also reliable information on the importance of immunization and Ontario’s publicly funded immunization program available at ontario.ca/ChildhoodVaccines.
ENG = ontario.ca/ChildhoodVaccines FR= ontario.ca/vaccinsenfance
Childhood should be fun and carefree. Making sure your kiddo’s vaccines are up-to-date is one way to make that happen.
What is one of your fondest childhood memories?