WECHU looking to improve existing vaccine coverage rates in schools
The Windsor Essex County Health Unit is working to improve the existing vaccine coverage rates throughout grade schools and high schools.
In Ontario there are nine required vaccinations, of those nine WECHU offers one mandatory which is the Meningococcal vaccine, and two recommended vaccines including Hepatitis B and HPV.
Currently, WECHU is looking to improve the vaccine coverage rates for the two recommended shots.
Locally in Windsor-Essex, the HPV vaccine coverage rate among 17-year-olds is higher than the provincial rate of 64 per cent at of August 31, 2022, but is far below the national coverage goal of 90 per cent.
Locally, the vaccine coverage for Hepatitis B among 17-year-olds, which is higher than the provincial rate of 74.9 per cent, is also lower than the desired national goal of 90 per cent.
Both of these vaccines, in addition to Meningococcal disease vaccine, is provided to all students in grade 7 as a part of the WECHU's school-based vaccine program, and is free while the students are in school.
Joanne Hegazi, Program Manager of Healthy Schools and Immunization with WECHU, says parental consent is needed for these vaccines.
"Every grade 7 class is being offered the three grade 7 immunizations in school. The nurses will go out to the school, provide the education session, as well as show the children how their parents can go online and fill out an online consent. They must consent to receive these vaccines."
She says the Meningococcal disease vaccine is required under the Immunization of School Pupils Act to attend school.
"The other two, the Hepatitis B and the HPV vaccine are not required under the ISPA [Immunization of School Pupils Act] however, we know that they do prevent cancer. And we encourage everybody to get those. They are free only until the children graduate from high school."
She says they offer catch-up clinics to high school students who may have missed the opportunity in grade 7 to get the HPV vaccine.
"It is still free for those students, but once they graduate, unfortunately it's no longer free. What we are doing is we've reached out, we've sent letters, we've made phone calls to those families to let them know that you are still entitled to this immunization, and stress the importance."
Hegazi adds that the Health Unit is also going to focus on parent/guardian communication strategies for them to report immunizations to WECHU prior to entering school.
She says this allows the Health Unit to be aware of which vaccinations children already have.