Stop letting students skip vaccines on philosophical or religious grounds, Ontario government urged

Doctor also suggests search engines, social media outlets adopt measures to reduce misinformation

Toronto’s medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa speaks to the media at city hall in Toronto, on Wednesday, April 24, 2019. De Villa wants the Ontario government to stop letting students skip their vaccines on philosophical or religious grounds. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov)

Toronto’s medical officer of health wants the Ontario government to stop letting students skip their vaccines on philosophical or religious grounds.

It’s among several recommendations Toronto Public Health lists in a broad proposal to boost vaccination rates, which also include sending reminder notifications when a vaccination is due.

But a key measure would make it tougher to avoid vaccines under the Immunization of School Pupils Act.

READ MORE: Risk of measles remains, two months after last confirmed Vancouver Island case

READ MORE: B.C. launches mandatory vaccine registry for schoolchildren

Dr. Eileen de Villa asks the health ministry to only allow exemptions for medical reasons, and says the medical reasons should be submitted by a certified health-care provider.

She also suggests that major search engines and social media outlets including Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram, adopt measures to reduce misinformation about vaccines; and that the province consider developing a compensation program for people who may experience a serious side effect from a vaccine.

The World Health Organization considers the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate as one of the top 10 global health threats. In Canada, it is estimated that 20 per cent of parents have questions about vaccines.

READ MORE: Province to review $40K annual grant for society linked to anti-vaccine claims

READ MORE: Facebook takes down anti-vaxxer page that used image of late Canadian girl

Last month, Pinterest announced it will try to combat vaccine misinformation by only showing posts from health groups such as the WHO. Instagram also has a pop-up giving users who search for vaccine posts the option to visit the Centers for Disease Control website.

The Toronto report notes that in the United States, non-medical exemption rates have led to the circulation of rare and dangerous vaccine-preventable diseases such as whooping cough and measles.

“U.S. states, such as California, which have removed non-medical exemptions, have shown improved immunization rates in schools,” says the report, which will be considered by a city council advisory board next Monday.

“Before philosophical and religious exemption rates reach dangerously high levels in Toronto, it is important and timely for the provincial Ministry of Health to consider removing philosophical and religious exemptions from its legislation.”

The report says that over the last 13 years, there has been “a slow and small, but steady increase” in philosophical and religious exemptions among Toronto elementary and secondary school students.

The rate increased to 1.72 per cent in the 2018/19 school year for the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine from 0.8 per cent in the 2006/07 school year.

The Canadian Press

READ MORE: Anti-vaccine campaign ‘very concerning,’ says Ontario health minister

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19 cancels 2 main Armstrong-Spallumcheen events

Community Excellence Awards, Citizen of the Year, cancelled for 2020; both to return in 2021

Vernon golf course to host national event local qualifier

The Rise hosts the RBC PGA Scramble qualifier Sunday, July 26

UPDATED: Interior Health to add 495 long-term seniors care beds

Nelson, Kelowna, Kamloops, Vernon and Penticton to receive new facilities

Boardwalk closures ahead for Vernon cyclists, pedestrians

Next phase of storm rehab project will see closures of up to 20 minutes

Missing woman last seen in Lumby

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP seek public’s help in locating 32-year-old woman

B.C. records 62 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths since Friday

Province has just over 200 active cases

Police search for suspect in assault on woman in downtown Kelowna

Kelowna police received a report a woman had been assaulted by an unknown man on July 12

Hotel rooms for B.C. homeless too hasty, NDP government told

Businesses forced out, but crime goes down, minister says

Two positive COVID-19 cases at Oliver farm

The risk of exposure to the general public related to this farm is considered to be low

Oliver Town Hall closed to public as staffer displays COVID-19 symptoms

One staff member at Oliver Town Hall is being tested for coronavirus

Wage subsidy will be extended until December amid post-COVID reopening: Trudeau

Trudeau said the extension will ‘give greater certainty and support to businesses’

B.C. government prepares for COVID-19 economic recovery efforts

New measures after July consultation, Carole James says

Horoscopes for the week of July 13

Weekly horoscopes by Morgan Fava

Police keep eye on motorbike gang in Kelowna for poker run

The Throttle Lockers Motorcycle Club Poker Run was to have taken place on July 11

Most Read