TORONTO -- Ontario’s top public health official says that the province won’t add COVID-19 to the list of nine diseases that public school students must be immunized against after concluding that doing so would place “an additional burden” on public health agencies.

The Immunization of School Pupils Actstipulates that parents must provide their local public health unit with proof that their school-aged child has been immunized against diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps rubella, meningitis, whooping cough and chickenpox in order for them to attend an elementary or secondary school.

In recent months there has been increasing pressure on the Ford government to add COVID-19 to the list, including from the chair of the country’s largest school board.

But during a briefing on Thursday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore revealed that his office has “reviewed” the issue and decided that it would be an “additional burden at present to local public health agencies and parents and students.”

Instead, he said that his office is working on providing public health units with a list of students in each school and classroom so that they can quickly determine the vaccination status of close contacts in the event of outbreaks.

“It is not going to be integrated into the ISPA at present. We have to look at the trends and the ongoing threat of this virus. If it persists season after season and is an ongoing threat at that point we would review the integration of COVID vaccination status into the ISPA,” he said. “At present our goal was to improve outbreak management in school settings to enable local public health agencies to have the data they need at their fingertips to be able to respond to outbreaks.”

Ontario’s public school boards have reported 4,454 school-related cases of COVID-19 since classes resumed last month.

At this time last year there were only 1,966 confirmed school-related cases.