TDSB seeks addition of COVID-19 vaccine to list of required shots for students

The chair of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has called on the Ontario government to add COVID-19 vaccinations to the list of required shots for eligible students.

In a letter addressed Friday to Education Minister Stephen Lecce, chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore, and Toronto medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa, TDSB chair Alexander Brown said making the shots mandatory would help protect school communities and keep schools open.

“The health and safety of our students, staff and school communities is and will always be our main priority as we navigate our way through this pandemic,” Brown said.

Read more: TDSB trustees vote unanimously to develop mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy

“This commitment consists of advocating for and implementing health and safety measures that further protect our communities from the spread of the virus, including, but not limited to, masking, ventilation and vaccinations.”

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Brown noted that the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association also previously asked that COVID-19 vaccinations be made compulsory for eligible students.

Last month, TDSB trustees voted to have staff come up with a procedure that would require all staff, trustees and visitors to disclose and provide proof of vaccination status and be fully vaccinated.

The trustees also voted to have the chair request that COVID-19 vaccines be added to the list of required shots for students.

In a statement, Alexandra Hilkene, a spokesperson for Health Minister Christine Elliott, didn’t directly address the TDSB chair’s request, but said the government will be keeping track of students’ vaccination status.

“The reporting and assessment components of the [Immunization of School Pupil’s Act] are already being accomplished through existing systems,” she said.

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“The province will work with trusted public health units to use the existing COVaxON system to safely and securely confirm the vaccination status of students. The province is committed to keeping parents informed about how their child’s COVID-19 vaccine information and enrollment data is being used to keep schools safe.”

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Hilkene said this will allow health units to accomplish “rapid” contact tracing if required in the event of COVID-19 cases or outbreaks.

Dr. Vinita Dubey, Toronto’s associate medical officer of health, said in a statement that Toronto Public Health (TPH) encourages schools and school boards to develop COVID-19 vaccination policies for students and staff and supports policies that encourage vaccination.

“While the Ontario Ministry of Education sets out health and safety measures in schools, TPH guidance supports these requirements and supports boards in creating as safe an environment as possible,” Dubey said.

Currently, those aged 12-plus, or those turning 12 this year, are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

— With files from Gabby Rodrigues

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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