TORONTO — An education advocacy group has asked Ontario to add COVID-19 vaccinations to the list of immunizations required to attend school in the province.
Annie Kidder, executive director of People for Education, wrote to Education Minister Stephen Lecce with the request on Sunday.
She said that it's "vital" to require COVID-19 shots for eligible students as fewer than 70 per cent of those aged 12 to 17 are fully vaccinated, with school set to begin in two weeks.
"Families and staff need greater assurance that everything is being done to ensure their schools are safe," Kidder wrote.
Her letter suggested that COVID-19 be added to the list of diseases under the Immunization of School Pupils Act, which covers other conditions including polio, measles, mumps and whooping cough.
She said her organization also agrees with demands to make COVID-19 shots mandatory for school staff, and calls for provincial proof-of-vaccination certificates.
Those changes, Kidder wrote, will help current COVID-19 case management protocols -- which differ based on vaccination status -- run smoothly.
The province has said the Education Ministry is finalizing a COVID-19 vaccination plan for school staff that will require unvaccinated people to get regularly tested for the virus.
Dr. Kieran Moore, chief medical officer of health for Ontario, said the province was reviewing possibilities for a student immunization policy, looking at the Immunization of School Pupils Act, which allows exemptions to vaccination for medical or religious reasons.
"I think it's prudent to include that in the suite of policies that the immunization status of children be reported to their local public health agencies," he said, adding that it would help plan for and manage COVID-19 outbreaks in school settings.
Ontario children born later than 2009 currently are not eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.
The province says 72 per cent of eligible youth have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 59 per cent have had both shots.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 23, 2021.
Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press