Immunization Requirements for Children in School
- Mandatory immunizations required to attend school in Ontario
- What do parents need to do?
- If parents receive a letter notifying them that their child is missing vaccinations
Having up-to-date immunizations helps ensure that children have the best protection possible against certain diseases that can be very serious or even fatal. It also helps reduce the risk of disease outbreaks in schools. Ontario’s Routine Immunization Schedule provides a number of immunizations free of charge to both children and adults. Some of these immunizations are mandatory for children to attend primary or secondary school in Ontario.
Mandatory immunizations required to attend school in Ontario
The Immunization of School Pupils Act requires parents to provide proof of immunization (or appropriate exemption documents) for certain diseases if their children attend school in Ontario.
Children enrolled in primary or secondary school must have proof of immunization against the following diseases:
- pertussis (whooping cough)
- meningococcal disease (Men-C-C for children under 12 years old)
- meningococcal disease (Men-C-ACWY for children 12 years and older)
- varicella (chickenpox) – required for children born in 2010 or later
The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) is also required by law to review immunization records and contact parents of children for whom they do not have complete records. Students whose records are not complete may be suspended from school until their immunization records are complete. Students who are missing immunizations may also be suspended during disease outbreaks.
School Immunization Clinics
Each year, school-based clinics are held for students in Grade 7, to provide immunization against Hepatitis B, HPV and meningococcal disease. The meningococcal vaccine, which protects against meningitis, is a mandatory vaccine (required by the Immunization of School Pupils Act). The hepatitis B and HPV vaccines are not mandatory, but are strongly recommended for all boys and girls in Grade 7 as they can protect against serious illnesses, including liver disease and some types of cancer. Vaccines are administered by a public health nurse from the EOHU. Grade 7 students will receive consent forms and information about the vaccines.
Special immunization catch-up clinics are also offered in some high schools. Secondary students who are missing vaccines that are required to attend school may be able to catch up on their immunizations at these clinics.
What do parents need to do?
- Parents should check if their child’s immunizations are up-to-date. If they’re unsure, they should talk to their healthcare provider (e.g. doctor, nurse practitioner) or the EOHU.
- If their child is overdue for any vaccines, they can make arrangements with a healthcare provider or book an appointment with the EOHU to have their child immunized. For students in high school, there may be a catch-up immunization clinic offered at school.
- If their child receives a vaccine or booster shot from a healthcare provider: Parents must report the vaccine to the EOHU so that their child’s immunization record can be updated. Note: Healthcare providers do not notify the EOHU when they give a vaccine.
- If their child receives a vaccine or booster at an EOHU office or a school-based clinic in SDG-PR: Parents do not need to report it to the EOHU as the health unit will already have it on record.
If parents receive a letter notifying them that their child is missing vaccinations
There are several reasons why parents may receive a notice that their child is missing a vaccination:
- The child has not yet received a required immunization.
- The EOHU has not received information for an immunization that the child received.
- The child may have received immunizations outside of Ontario that do not meet the requirements of the Ontario Immunization Schedule.
- An exemption has been requested, but the signed and completed medical form or notarized conscience/religious affidavit has not been returned to the EOHU.
Parents must follow the instructions above, or provide the EOHU with the appropriate exemption document.
In certain cases, a child may be exempt from immunization requirements. To obtain an exemption, an official exemption form has to be fully completed and kept on record. It is important to note that children who are exempt from immunization are at increased risk of disease, and may be removed from school during a disease outbreak.
If a child is unable to be immunized for medical reasons, parents can request that a legally qualified healthcare provider complete a medical exemption form for the child.
Philosophical or Religious Exemption for a Child Attending School
Parents who have philosophical or religious objections to immunization may apply for an exemption for their child, using the form below. A separate exemption application must be completed for each child.
In order to be valid, Statements of Conscience or Religious Belief need to be notarized, and the original copy must be given to the EOHU to keep on file.
The following qualify as Commissioner for Taking Affidavits:
- Member of Provincial Parliament
- Provincial Judge
- Justice of the Peace
- Clerk, Deputy Clerk or Treasurer of Local Municipalities (in which your local municipality is situated)
- Head of Municipal Council in which your local municipality is situated
- Member of City Councils (reeves) in which your local municipality is situated
- Notary Public
- Barrister and solicitors entitled to practice law in Ontario
- Any individual who is empowered by the Lieutenant Governor to be a commissioner (a stamp is required for these individuals)
Under the Immunization of School Pupils Act, parents seeking a non-medical exemption for their child(ren) are now required to complete an immunization education session. Please contact the EOHU for details at 613-933-1375 or 1-866-318-0522.
For more information:
- Vaccines for children at school (Ontario Ministry of Health)
- Immunization of School Pupils Act
- VaxFacts Clinic (Scarborough Health Network)
- Eastern Ontario Health Unit: 613-933-1375 or 1-800-267-7120