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

Paintings stolen from Honeymoon Bay studio returned

Hutchings said he received a lot of feedback from the community

3 people found violating court imposed curfews in Cowichan

People are placed on curfews for a variety of public safety reasons.

No parking on Thain Road, Shawnigan police remind

Warmer weather brings complaints near Cobble Hill quarry

No lifeguards this summer for Cowichan’s Fuller Lake, Arbutus Park; Crofton pool closed

Fears of risk to health and safety during COVID-19 pandemic to blame

You’ll have to pay to get on the bus again in Cowichan

Beginning June 1, fare collection and front door boarding started again

If Trudeau won’t stand up to Trump, how will regular people: Singh

Trudeau did not directly answer a question about Trump’s actions amid protests

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

VIDEO: Internal investigation into aggressive arrest by Kelowna Mountie

A video allegedly shows a Kelowna Mountie striking a man several times

22 new COVID-19 test-positives, one death following days of low case counts in B.C.

Health officials urged British Columbians to ‘stand together while staying apart’

John Horgan says COVID-19 restrictions won’t be eased regionally

B.C. Liberals urge ‘tailored’ response based on infections

Feds get failing grade for lack of action plan on anniversary of MMIWG report

‘Instead of a National Action Plan, we have been left with a Lack-of-Action Plan’

Search and rescue crews help locate 62-year-old Nanoose Bay mountain biker

RCMP: Man got lost on trail and did right thing by calling for assistance

B.C. ranchers, lodge operators say Indigenous land title shuts them out

Tsilhqot’in jurisdiction affects grazing, access to private property

As two B.C. offices see outbreaks, Dr. Henry warns tests don’t replace other measures

Physical distancing, PPE and sanitizing remain key to reduce COVID-19 spread

Most Read