Volume 95, Issue 69

Tuesday, February 5, 2002
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Psychic: Sinal will win USC election

Let the ass-kissing begin

Pride Awareness Day hits UCC atrium

Wall of debt - much nicer than the Berlin Wall

Hot for teacher: Amy Gehring not guilty

Rebellious youth thumb noses at disease

Cops prevent biker rumble at fair grounds

Rebellious youth thumb noses at disease

By Tola Afolabi
Gazette Staff

The Middlesex-London Health unit has been taking drastic measures this week to avoid the suspension of just under 1,000 unvaccinated secondary students.

"By [the Immunization of School Pupils Act] we are obligated to suspend students who are not up to date with their immunizations," said Mary Anne Simpson, manager of the Vaccine Preventable Diseases Program at the Middlesex-London Health Unit.

Suspensions were originally slated to begin last Wednesday, but the health unit has extended the deadline to Thursday because of the inclement weather and student exams, Simpson said.

If suspended, a student faces 20 days out of school that may later be extended for another 20 days.

The health unit began screening 26,402 high school students in the fall for vaccinations against tetanus and diphtheria, Simpson said.

Some students also lacked immunization records for measles, mumps and rubella.

The health unit held clinics in December and January, after which 2,118 students remained unvaccinated. Letters were sent out and, as of last week, 1,150 students had still failed to provide either vaccination records or documentation of religious or philosophical reasons for refusing immunization, Simpson said.

She explained students who show documentation of such reasons for refusing immunization will be allowed to attend school, but will be forced out of school if there is a disease outbreak.

Catholic Central High School student Katie Elie said she disagreed with the Health Unit's method of enforcement. "I think it's a dumb way to get [students vaccinated] because most kids are looking to get out of school."

But Simpson said the health unit's policy is essential to maintaining a healthy community.

"If we don't keep students immunized and the community doesn't stay protected, there's a risk that we could get an outbreak of one of these diseases," she said.

The health unit's process – although legal – violates individual rights, said Edda West, co-ordinator of the Vaccination Risk Awareness Network.

"I don't think it's fair, but that's the law. It's a punitive measure. It's a way of punishing people who don't comply with their demands," she said.

"The most basic democratic freedom is the right to determine what goes into your body," West said.

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Copyright The Gazette 2002