Ontario could add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of mandatory shots children must have to attend school in the future, one of the province’s top doctors said Monday.
Under the province’s Immunization of School Pupils Act (ISPA), students must be vaccinated against certain diseases or have a medical exemption to continue attending classes. Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, thinks it’s likely COVID-19 could become one of the designated illnesses.
“I see potential in the future for that,” she said at a news conference from Queen’s Park.
No COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for children under 12 yet, so they won’t become mandatory this school year or next. But going forward the requirement could help control outbreaks, Yaffe said.
Other diseases for which vaccines are mandatory under the ISPA include diptheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, meningococcal disease, whooping cough, and chicken pox.
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Mandatory vaccination puts getting immunized at the front of people’s minds, but it’s imperative they have easy access to the required vaccines, Yaffe said.
Ontario is requiring long-term care facilities to create vaccination policies for staff right now, where employees must either present proof of COVID-19 immunization, disclose a medically valid exemption, or enroll in an information course.
Yaffe also praised Western University for its recent decision to require immunization as a prerequisite for students living in campus residences.
“I see potential for this kind of thing being used in other settings,” she said.
Yaffe also gave an update on COVID-19 statistics in the province from the past month. During the month of May, Ontario averaged 2,197 new COVID-19 infections every day. That’s down from an average of 3,782 new daily infections in April.
On Monday, the province reported 916 new COVID-19 infections. It’s the first time daily cases have been below 1,000 since March, and the lowest count since mid-February.