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

COVID cases in the Bella Coola Valley have dropped to just four active cases (file photo)
Active COVID cases drop to four; schools re-open for face-to-face instruction

A total of 63 cases were recorded with 59 now out of isolation

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

Joyce Cooper (left) said she had to set an example for Tsilhqot’in communities by sharing her COVID-19 positive results. (Photo submitted)
Tsideldel off-reserve member documents experience of COVID-19

We should all be supporting one another and not judging each other, says Joyce Cooper

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

Nuxalk Public Health Nurse Sophie Mack is all smiles as she vaccinates her dad, hereditary chief James Mack Sr., with his first dose of the Moderna vaccine (photo submitted)
Cases drop as vaccine continues to roll out in Bella Coola

Seniors at Mountain View Lodge, Nuxalk elders, hospital staff and long-term care residents have all started to receive their vaccines so far

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
Canadians divided over Keystone pipeline, despite U.S. president’s permit pullback

Two-thirds of Canadians think Biden’s decision was a “bad thing” for Alberta

A woman wearing a protective face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
5 big lessons experts say Canada should learn from COVID-19

‘What should be done to reduce the harms the next time a virus arises?’ Disease control experts answer

Most Read