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 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

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine deliveres to Canada are being delayed because of complications at their European distribution facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Delays of Pfizer vaccine delivery to impact Alberta’s vaccination plans

Alberta has administered 74,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine so far

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw
Alberta eases some COVID-19 restrictions

Salons, barbershops and other personal and wellness services will be open by appointment only

File Photo
‘You took away some real joy.’ Sylvan Lake Winter Village turned off after vandalism

Sometime during the night of Jan, 12 the light display at the pier was vandalized and damaged

(Black Press file photo)
Sylvan Lake man charged with fraud totalling more than $100,000

Sylvan Lake RCMP have been investigating two companies owned by the same man since June 2019

Lesser Slave Lake UCP MLA Pat Rehn. (Facebook)
Kenney kicks Pat Rehn out of UCP caucus after municipal complaints

Rehn had been criticized by municipal leaders in his constituency

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

(Via the Canadian Press)
Alberta monolith comes with message to save eastern slopes of Rocky Mountains

‘They deserve our attention. They warrant our protection. They are under threat’

blessing
Bentley Blessing Pantry continues to faithfully serve the community

‘We just wanted to make everyone aware that we are still here to serve you throughout this coming year.’

A Suncor logo is shown at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on May 2, 2019. A worker is missing after a dozer broke through ice on an inactive Suncor tailings pond in northern Alberta.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Worker missing after dozer breaks through frozen tailings pond in northern Alberta

The worker was an employee of Christina River Construction

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID clarity: Feds say 42-day gap for 2-dose vaccines OK as provinces race to immunity

‘Realities on the ground’ means that provinces, territories will have difficult choices to make

(Pixabay photo)
Alberta surgeon who hung a noose in a hospital found guilty of unprofessional conduct

College of Physicians and Surgeons says sanctions will be determined at a later hearing

Most Read