Ontario parents who want their kids exempted from routine vaccinations may be forced to take a class in immunization facts before deciding, according to new legislation the provincial government is proposing.
On Thursday, Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins tabled a bill that would force parents who want to exempt their kids from vaccines – for non-medical reasons – to complete an “education session.” It’s the only way they can obtain the exemption.
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“Choosing to vaccinate your child protects them from disease and it protects vulnerable children who can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons. That’s why it’s important for parents to keep their children’s immunizations up-to-date,” Hoskins said in a statement.
“If passed, the proposed amendments … would help parents and guardians make informed decisions about vaccination,” he said.
READ MORE: Which Toronto schools have the lowest measles vaccination rates?
The bill would also make health care providers report any vaccinations they administer to kids to their local public health unit. Right now, the onus is solely on parents to keep track of their kids’ immunization records.
The hope, in this instance, is to decrease suspensions caused by out-of-date immunization records.
Keep in mind, over the past few months, thousands of students across the province, from Waterloo to Ottawa and Toronto have been sent home because their records weren’t updated.
In Ontario, kids must have proof of vaccination against a handful of illnesses, such as diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis (whooping cough) and meningitis. Kids born in 2010 and later have to be vaccinated against varicella, or the chicken pox.
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A two-time award-winning Global News investigation in 2014 mapped out vaccination rates for every school in Toronto. The data was obtained exclusively by Global under the Freedom of Information Act.
Many schools were well below the herd immunity rate of 95 per cent – the level at which, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, there are enough people immunized to protect everyone.
Measles, mumps, chicken pox and whooping cough are highly contagious and potentially fatal. Along with measles outbreaks, whooping cough, chicken pox and mumps — all preventable with vaccines — have resurfaced in the Western world.