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INSIDE THE VILLAGE: Suspensions loom for thousands of unvaccinated students

This week on the podcast: As measles cases soar, public health units across Ontario are using the threat of suspensions to coerce parents to update their children's immunization records. Yes, it's legal

​Welcome back to Inside the Village, a one-of-a-kind podcast where all news is local — and no topic is off-limits.

On this week's episode: No vaccine records, no school.

For months now, public health units across Ontario have been warning parents and guardians that if their children's vaccination records aren't up to date, they could be suspended. Those warnings became reality in recent days, as hundreds of kids in different parts of the province were slapped with suspension orders.

Is it legal? Absolutely.

According to the Immunization of School Pupils Act (ISPA), students must show proof of vaccination for diphtheria, polio, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella (chickenpox) and meningitis in order to attend school. However, parents do have the option of acquiring an exemption form for medical or religious reasons — which means these childhood vaccines, though highly recommended, are not mandatory. (COVID-19 and flu vaccines are also not required for a child to attend school).

Now that the chaos of the pandemic has passed, public health units are scrambling to update their records on childhood immunizations — with the threat of suspension a last resort if parents don't comply.

The push also comes amid a worrying surge in measles cases in Canada, fuelled by the fact that more and more kids simply aren't getting vaccinated. The number of confirmed cases in the country has now reached 40, more than three times the amount recorded all of last year.

Joining us on the podcast this week is Dr. Dawn Bowdish, an immunologist and associate professor of medicine at McMaster University. She explains why parents shouldn't underestimate the damage measles can do — and why suspending students is a blunt but necessary measure.

For fun, we also spend a few minutes talking about hate mail.

Also on this episode: Should Highway 400 be renamed in honour of legendary musician Gordon Lightfoot? He did write a song called Carefree Highway, after all.

Hosted by Scott Sexsmith and Michael Friscolanti, the Editor-in-Chief of Village Media, Inside the Village is a news and current affairs podcast that provides a weekly window into some of the best local journalism from across our chain of Ontario newsrooms. Produced by Derek Turner, the program also explores bigger-picture issues that impact people across the province.

Every episode is available HERE. If you prefer the audio version, it is available wherever you find your favourite podcasts.

Have something to say? You can reach us at [email protected].

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