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Suspensions of Hamilton students over vaccination records delayed by cyberattack

The suspensions of students in Hamilton who failed to update their vaccination records have been delayed following a cyberattack that hit municipal services last weekend.

In a news release issued March 1, Hamilton Public Health Services (HPHS) informed Grade 9 to 12 students in the city they must provide updated vaccination records in compliance with local policies. Those who did not would be suspended beginning March 4, it said.

The cybersecurity incident suffered by a number of municipal services in Hamilton over the weekend has scrapped that plan, however.

“Students who were at risk of suspension due to overdue vaccines and vaccine records should plan to continue to attend school the week of March 4, 2024,” it said in the news release. 

“While enforcement through suspension is currently delayed, we are strongly recommending students with overdue vaccinations and records continue to take steps to become up-to-date. Immunizations are one of the most impactful and cost-effective public health interventions as they protect individuals from the harmful effects of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles.”

According to the release, HPHS cannot receive or access updated student immunization records sent to the health agency through fax or by phone as a result of the cybersecurity attack.

The breach, reported on Feb. 25, has impacted multiple municipal systems, including numerous payment portals, telephone lines, transit communications and online schedules, and city council meetings.

While there has been little information provided about the cyberattack, officials have said that they are working with experts, insurers and local counsel in an investigation.

For now, public health has said that vaccination records can be submitted through postal mail or the Immunization Connect Ontario (ICON) portal at hph.icon.ehealthontario.ca.

Additionally, a catch-up clinic will be offered for students who have overdue vaccinations or records from March 4 to 8 and March 11 and 12 on the plaza level of 110 King Street West between the hours of 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.

“As the school year progresses, Hamilton Public Health Services will reassess and plan to resume enforcement including school suspensions under the Immunization of School and Pupils Act,” the statement reads. “Further information will be shared with schools, parents/guardians and students as the planning continues.”