Ottawa’s top doctor worries kids aren’t up to date on mandatory vaccines

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Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health is concerned about the ‘lack of protection’ for children who are not up to date on their mandatory childhood vaccines, as the COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted both vaccination clinics in schools and vaccinations offered by family physicians.

Ottawa Public Health will be hosting catch-up clinics for people who don’t have access to vaccines at a health care provider’s office and is working with CHEO’s Kids Come First Health Team to explore ways to increase access to routine immunizations for families.

In a report for Monday’s Board of Health meeting, Dr. Vera Etches says there is evidence that the “backlog” of children who are not up to date on their vaccines in Ottawa continues to grow and puts children’s health at “a greater risk”. “

“There is evidence that primary care providers continue to provide fewer publicly funded routine vaccines in Ottawa than in 2019 before the pandemic. The immunization team estimates that vaccine orders from primary care providers are down 20-30% compared to the pre-pandemic period,” Etches said, adding that this reflects a decrease in doses given to children in Ottawa.

“This indicates that instead of ‘catching up’ with immunization, the backlog continues to grow at a high rate, putting the health of the people of Ottawa and in particular the health of Ottawa’s children at greater risk. “

In Ontario, primary care providers usually administer immunizations for children under five during regular health visits and childhood health checkups. Under the Student Immunization Act, children attending school must be vaccinated against nine infectious diseases – including polio, measles, mumps, meningococcal disease and chickenpox or have a valid exemption.

“The lack of protection with childhood vaccines is concerning,” Etches says in the report. “Outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs) that have been eliminated can occur even with small drops in vaccination coverage.”

Ottawa Public Health says monitoring of required vaccines will resume this fall, with staff assessing and maintaining immunization records for all school-aged children. Parents/guardians and school boards will receive questions regarding immunization requirements and reporting.

On Monday evening, the Board of Health will receive an update on Ottawa Public Health’s fall 2022 immunization plan, focusing on COVID-19 vaccines, monkeypox vaccines, immunization in school environment and childhood immunization.

This fall, OPH will offer school-based vaccination against hepatitis B, human papillomavirus (HPV), and meningococcal serogroups A, C, Y, and W-135. The vaccines will be available for 7th and 8th graders in public and private schools.

“This will support students who missed school vaccines last year due to their COVID-19 vaccine being prioritized over school vaccines, COVID-19 isolation, or the learning option in line.”

The report notes that the COVID-19 pandemic, including school closures and the redirection of resources to COVID-19 responses, has significantly disrupted the school-based immunization program. The Ministry of Health has extended eligibility for the HB vaccine until the end of the 12th grade. Children also remain eligible to receive one dose of the HPV vaccine until the end of the 12th year and one dose of the Men-C-ACYW vaccine in their lifetime.

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