A school’s right to request student vaccination records is the focus of a recent Globe & Mail article. Children’s health card numbers and immunization histories are their personal information, and so parents may question if this kind of request is an invasion of privacy.
In fact, schools in Ontario are permitted to collect students’ health card numbers and transfer them to the medical officer of health so that he or she can maintain students’ immunization records and limit the impact of vaccine-preventable diseases. If there is an outbreak, the medical officer of health may order schools to bar students if their statements of immunization are unavailable and they were not granted a medical exemption.
Under municipal privacy legislation, a notice of collection should appear on the forms that schools send home to request health card numbers. The notice explains why the health unit is authorized to collect this information under the Immunization of School Pupils Act and Ontario’s health privacy legislation. Most schools collect the information on behalf of the local health unit and do not keep a copy of the completed form.