Special Statement from Dr. Etches – October 5, 2023

This is a reproduction of a letter sent on October 5, 2023. For more information, please contact Ottawa Public Health.

Routine Childhood Vaccination

In Ontario, all children going to school need to be vaccinated against certain diseases. The vaccinesare free and are given to your child to protect them from many diseases. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, routine vaccination rates in Ottawa have decreased. That means there are many children and youth who are missing important vaccines they need to go to school.

What can you do?

  • Check your child’s vaccine record: compare the records you have with the Publicly Funded Immunization Schedule handout attached to this letter. This handout also lets you know how to report your child’s immunizations.
  • Report your child’s vaccine(s) to Ottawa Public Health (OPH): it is possible that your child is up to date on their vaccines, but OPH might not be aware. Your health care provider does not report your child’s vaccinations to OPH, so even if your child is up to date, OPH might not know.

If your child needs a vaccine: OPH is working with the Kids Come First Health Team and other partners to make it easier to get children vaccinated. For children who don’t have access to a regular health care provider, parents or guardians can book an appointment to review their vaccine record or to get a missing vaccine. Routine childhood vaccines are also offered on a walk-in basis at our Neighbourhood Health and Wellness Hubs. For more information about routine vaccines visit: ParentinginOttawa.ca/RoutineVaccination

Fall Vaccines (Flu and COVID-19) and Respiratory Illness Season

The flu vaccine is an important vaccine for children. The flu can make children very sick and even lead to serious illness. We expect this fall and winter to be challenging with many respiratory viruses circulating at the same time – like influenza (flu), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and COVID-19.

Based on flu activity in countries like Australia, where the season typically starts several months before our season, we expect an earlier flu season with more children getting sick and some needing hospitalization.

It is important to think ahead and be prepared for respiratory illness season. I am sharing two important handouts to help you in the months ahead:

  1. The Where to seek care handout, endorsed by CHEO, will help you to plan ahead so that if your child gets sick, you know what you can do at home to help with symptoms. It will also help guide you about when and where to get help.
  2. The About Respiratory Illness handout, will help you better understand how to protect your family against viruses, how to reduce the spread, what to do if you have symptoms, and where to get information on treatment.

Getting your vaccines this fall, like your annual flu vaccine and the updated COVID-19 vaccine, is the best way to protect yourself and your child from getting sick. Flu and COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older. The flu vaccine and the updated COVID-19 vaccine will be available for people at greatest risk of becoming very sick such as people in hospitals and long-term care homes starting at the end of September. We expect flu and COVID-19 vaccines to become more widely available to other high-risk groups and the general population closer to mid to late October.

There are many options for getting your flu and COVID-19 vaccines:

  • Check with your regular health care provider to see if they offer flu and COVID-19 vaccines;
  • Contact your local pharmacy to get your COVID-19 and/or flu vaccine(s);
  • Book an appointment at an OPH Community Clinic; or
  • Visit one of our Neighbourhood Health and Wellness Hubs, if you face barriers to access, forvaccines on a walk-in basis.

Thank you for taking the time to read this important information and taking the next steps to help protect you and your family this respiratory illness season. Staying up to date on routine vaccinations, getting your flu and COVID-19 vaccines this fall, and following important public health measures, like hand washing and staying home when sick, will help protect you, your family and others in our community.

Thank you. Merci. Meegwetch.

Dr. Vera Etches, OPH Medical Officer of Health

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