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Measles Outbreak: How this Could Impact Unimmunized Students

April 16, 2014

Less than a month ago, a measles outbreak in Fraser Valley infected over 200 people. The CBC reports that this year, there have been 11 confirmed cases of measles in Ontario. Only weeks ago, there was a confirmed case in Simcoe County, just a stones-throw from Newmarket. This is all despite the measles having officially been eliminated in Canada.

Unlike influenza, which makes its rounds every year, the measles only occur when brought in from another country, either with someone returning to Canada having been exposed while overseas or an infector visitor to the country. Regardless, unexpected cases of measles is still a reality for Canadians.

Parents who have chosen not to vaccinate their children against the measles may be wondering how the school will handle any kind of exposure, now that we see how close-to-home a case can be. Will your child allowed to attend school if they are not vaccinated?

The Immunization of School Pupils Act

The Immunization of School Pupils Act requires students in Ontario to provide proof of up-to-date immunization for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps and rubella.

As a result, when families choose to not vaccinate their children, the children can only attend school if the parents sign a notarized statement stating that the Immunization of School Pupils Act conflicts with their conscience or religious belief.

This statement is clear: should an outbreak or immediate risk of outbreak of a designated disease occur in the school the student attends, the Medical Officer of Health could order that their child be excluded from school.

To find out more, StouffvilleConnects spoke with Dr. Lilian Yuan, Associate Medical Officer of Health for the Regional Municipality of York. She explains when and how a measles outbreak could lead to unvaccinated children being ordered to stay home from school:

When would students be asked to stay home?

When a school is affected by a case of measles, the immunization records for each student is pulled. If the student’s vaccinations are up to date, they are fine. If the student is not up-to-date on their measles vaccine, or has been opted out when a parent signs a conscientious objector form, they will be asked to stay home for their own safety, and the safety of others should the student become infected.

For how long could the student be off school?

Depending on the time of the last exposure, the student could be off school for up to 21-days.

When would a school put out this order?

When a measles case is reported, an investigation takes place to determine who may have come into contact with the infected person. A school becomes involved when someone from the school, whether a student, teacher or other staff member may have had contact or interaction with the infected.

This is determined on a school by school basis. In other words, only schools where someone may have had contact with measles will be affected – not all surrounding schools as well.

What if I want to get my child vaccinated once a case has been confirmed?

To be considered protected against the measles, a child needs two vaccinations taken four-weeks apart. In some cases, a student may have had the first vaccination but never received the second. In this case, the student can simply get the second vaccination and be back at school the next day.

If the student has not had either vaccine, they can get the first but will not be considered protected until they have received the second four-weeks later.

Vaccination Facts

We at SouffvilleConnects did some research and found these interesting facts:

• A US study in 2004 found that "… unvaccinated children were more likely to be non-Hispanic white, have a mother who was older, married and who had a college degree. These children were more likely to live in a household with an annual income exceeding $75,000."
• During the 2009–2010 school year, 84% to 92% of Ontario students aged 7 to 17 had been vaccinated.
• Anyone over 12 months of age can get the measles vaccine at any time.
• It is a live vaccine, so anyone who is pregnant or immune suppressed should check with health provider before getting the vaccine.

Reading & Resources

Immunization of School Pupils Act

Demographics of Unvaccinated Children

Mandatory Vaccinations: The Canadian Picture

Measles Vaccination

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