Region: Ontario Answer # 1413

What are vaccinations?

Vaccinations, or vaccines for short, use a weakened form of virus or bacteria to assist an individual’s immune system in developing a long-term protection from that disease. It is a proactive measure that ensures that a person’s immune system is prepared to fight exposure to the disease. Sometimes individuals will not develop immunity after receiving a vaccination, but the illness’ symptoms may be less severe.

Immunization of School Pupils Act (ISPA)

Ontario’s Immunization of School Pupils Act (ISPA) requires that all children under the age of 18 registered for Ontario schools must be immunized. The ISPA places direct responsibility on parents to ensure their children have the appropriate vaccinations. The Act applies to all students attending public or private elementary and secondary schools.

Under the ISPA, adolescents and children enrolled in primary and secondary school must be immunized against the following diseases (unless they have a valid exemption – see below):

  • diphtheria
  • tetanus
  • polio
  • measles
  • mumps
  • rubella
  • meningitis (meningococcal disease)
  • whooping cough (pertussis)
  • chickenpox (varicella) – required for children born in 2010 or later

When should children be vaccinated?

According to the Ontario Immunization Schedule, children should receive vaccinations as follows:

Between ages 4-6

  • Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Polio
  • Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Chicken Pox (required for children born in 2010 or later)

In Grade 7

  • Meningococcal conjugate (Men-C-ACYW)
  • Hepatitis B
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Between ages 14-16

  • Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis

Exclusion from school

Children who do not have all their required immunizations may not be allowed to attend school. As per the ISPA, if an outbreak of a particular disease occurs, any student that is not immunized may be asked to not attend school until the disease is no longer present.

Proof of immunization

Parents must keep immunization information up-to-date and provide proof of their child’s immunization to their local public health unit.

Exemptions from immunization

Under the ISPA, a child may be exempted from immunization requirements under two circumstances: for medical reasons, or due to religious belief or conscience.

1. Medical reasons

If a parent believes their child is exempt from immunization due to medical reasons, they must submit a Statement of Medical Exemption form to their local health unit that includes a signature from a physician or nurse practitioner explaining the medical reasons for the exemption. Reasons may include if a child:

  • has a certain medical condition that prevents them from being administered the vaccine
  • has evidence of a pre-existing immunity from the disease which will make immunization unnecessary

2. Conscience or religious belief

If a parent believes their child is exempt from immunization due to conscience or religious belief, they must attend an education session at their local public health unit that discusses:

  • basic information about immunization,
  • immunization law in Ontario,
  • immunization and community health, and
  • vaccine safety

Upon completion of the session, parents will receive a Vaccine Education Certificate from the local public health unit that is signed and dated. Parents must then complete the Statement of Conscience or Religious Belief form and have it signed by a commissioner for taking affidavits in Ontario. The original, signed, Vaccine Education Certificate and Statement of Conscience or Religious Belief form must be submitted to the local public health unit.

Parents are recommended to keep a photocopy of their exemption documents as health units will not keep records.

Daycare centres

For children to attend licensed daycare centres without vaccinations due to medical, religious or conscience reasons, the daycare will require a valid written exemption. Your child may be asked to stay out of daycare centres if the disease appears until it is no longer present.

Special medical conditions

In certain circumstances, children may require additional vaccines if they have special medical conditions or any other high-risk factors. Contact your local public health unit or health care provider about any additional recommended vaccines.

More information about vaccinations for school age children can be found from Ontario.ca, and the Ontario Ministry of Health.


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