The Thunder Bay District Health Unit has started enforcing this school year's suspensions for students that don't have their immunization records up-to-date.

The Immunization of School Pupils Act, which became law in 1990, states that all Ontario students in all school boards must be fully vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps and rubella.

For the 2014-15 school year, meningitis, pertussis and chickenpox were added to the list of diseases children must be vaccinated against.

TBDHU's manager of infectious disease programs Diana Gowanlock said suspension notices could come as a surprise this school year because last year the health unit was switching over to a new computer system and did not carry through with the suspension stage.

"The Immunization of School Pupils Act is not new and it's a requirement that all health units across Ontario enforce it," she said. "We're required to assess all students' immunization records once a year and enforce the act."

The suspensions were divided into two workable groups, so not all schools have received lists of the affected students.

But that second wave is due next week on March 29, said Gowanlock.

Parents will have received a suspension prevention immunization notice well in advance and have four weeks to update their children's records.

The health unit then gives them an additional two weeks once the actual suspension letter has been sent.

The notices outline which immunizations might be out of date.

"We do everything possible to help parents out with obtaining the records and making sure their children are up to date," Gowanlock said.

She added that often parents don't realize that health-care providers, including their primary care physician, don't always send the health unit updated immunization records.

Doctors aren't required to and many don't. It's up to the parent to get the information to the health unit.

As soon as parents notify the health unit that the records have been updated, their child is immediately removed from the suspension list.

"The suspension order is immediately lifted if the parent comes down with the record and their chid is up to date," said Gowanlock. "We phone the school right away and let them know."

Immunization records can be updated online by uploading a photo through the health unit's secure website (tbdhu.com) or they can be faxed or mailed in to the Vaccine Preventable Disease Program.

The Thunder Bay District Health Unit can be reached toll free at 1-888-294-6630.

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