Nearly a quarter of all seven-year-old students in Toronto do not have up-to-date immunization records for measles as required by law, according to new data from Toronto Public Health.

Schoolchildren in Ontario are supposed to be vaccinated from a wide variety of infectious diseases by the time they are six years old, however the data from Toronto Public Health suggests that only 76.3 per cent of seven year olds during the 2017-2018 school year had been fully vaccinated for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR).

It should, however, be noted that vaccination rates among older children were much higher. Toronto Public Health says that 88 per cent of students who were eight years old during the 2017-2018 school year had up-to-date vaccination records. That number then went up to 90 per cent for students who were nine years old during the 2017-2018 school year.

Overall, 89 per cent of students between the ages of 7 and 17 were fully vaccinated against measles, mumps, and rubella during the 2017-2018 school year.

Speaking with CP24 on Thursday, Toronto Public Health spokesperson Dr. Vinita Dubey said that the lower rate of vaccination among seven year olds is likely the result of students having received some vaccinations but not all of them.

In Ontario, children receive the MMR vaccine when they are one year old and then again between the ages of four and six.

“The second dose is usually given at four to six years of age so if you are late in getting that vaccine or if you are new from another country there might be some delays in getting that vaccine. But typically people by the time they are eight or nine years of age do get vaccinated,” Dubey said. “We do certainly want to make sure that people are not refusing the vaccine because they are concerned about the vaccine. It is very safe.”

Home-grown cases of measles were eradicated in Canada in 1998, but the city does see about five travel-related cases of the virus every year.

So far in 2019, there have been two such cases.

In an in interview with CP24 on Thursday afternoon, CTV’s infectious disease expert Dr. Neil Rau said that while it is “not ideal” for such a large percentage of seven year olds to be in need of the MNR vaccine, it shouldn’t be “a cause for a big alarm” given that vaccination rates are higher among eight and nine year olds.

Rau also said that the overall vaccination rate of 89 per cent is enough to “prevent sustained outbreaks,” though he conceded that it is short of the public health target of 95 per cent.

“If you had a single mother working shift work who doesn’t have time to get her kid to the doctor, if public health said your child isn’t vaccinated and we are suspending them from school, that could cause real chaos for that person who can’t get time off work,” he said.

Education Minister Lisa Thompson did speak with CP24 about the lower immunization rates for seven-year-old students on Thursday morning and said that her government is “monitoring it very closely” and will be working with school boards “to address the situation.”

According to data provided to CP24, just 59.6 per cent of all students ages 7 to 17 in Toronto had fully up to date vaccination records in the 2017-2018 school year. That compared poorly to other parts of the GTA, including York Region (86.9 per cent), Peel Region (73.5 per cent) and Durham Region (92.3 per cent).