Decision not to mandate vaccination on kids is “terrible news for our small community,” as a result of new guidelines in the Canadian province of Ontario.
The parent group Ontario Healthy Kids released the new vaccine policy that will allow conscientious objection in children under 2. According to the group, “The new policy also affects 11 and 12 year olds.”
Parents can continue to vaccinate their children without a doctor’s consultation or prescription, according to the policy. Instead, they must bring their child to a doctor “to discuss reasons for not receiving the vaccines.”
So far, only 17 percent of 5-year-olds in Ontario are fully vaccinated, but parents and doctors who oppose the directive said it is “groundbreaking” for the province.
Ontario announced the new vaccine policy in June, but it has received mixed reviews as first infants and even infants who are under age two, are not covered.
“Babies are fine. Kids are fine. They are turning two,” said Dr. Ron Greaves, Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health.
Last year, Ontario boasted 88 percent immunization rate, with many of the remaining children receiving vaccinations from their parents. In comparison, 2018 data indicated only 69 percent of children are fully vaccinated, the lowest percentage ever recorded in Ontario.
Greaves said the cause was avoidable, due to the MMR measles vaccine, which is 25 percent effective at preventing measles.
Greaves recommended that new parents obtain a waiver stating that they do not want to vaccinate their children, as if they can’t access the services of a doctor to discuss why the child was not vaccinated.
Doctors, on the other hand, are just as concerned as their parents on the decision. The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) said its members have agreed to start a work group to “better understand the potential unintended consequences of the new policy.”
“Do we have to give up our autonomy or do we have to accept this public policy?” asked Greaves, who said the Ministry of Health will help fund those groups.
Despite this controversy and confusion, he still believes that every child needs to be vaccinated.
“What we want to do is give as much information as we can to the parents so they have the information they need to decide whether to vaccinate their children or not,” Greaves said.
For parents who are unable to convince doctors that it is OK to opt out of the vaccine policy, he advised them to vaccinate their children before they turn two, so that they have “the full benefit of those vaccines as they get older.”
Dr. Laura Champion, a pediatrician at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, said the new policy has been “lively” in the response from parents and doctors.
“Given how much of a struggle it is to keep up with the flu vaccine, and how new vaccines come out and how they change and make changes, we are trying to be as transparent as possible to physicians and parents,” she said.
However, Dr. Melody Chen, who is a scientist in the Division of Pediatrics at Toronto General Hospital, is one of many parents who still have a different opinion on the new guidelines.
“I feel, personally, that the only public health education we need is giving all the correct information on how to get vaccinated,” she said.
Chen added that she does not believe it’s right to make the children wait until they are over the age of 2 to receive vaccines, rather than the new policy mandates that children get vaccinated under two.
Chen said vaccines can be very useful to protect the child from a lot of things, but according to her, they do not treat every disease, such as influenza.
“If we catch a girl or boy who has influenza that poses a serious risk to them and they become seriously ill, and if we give them an influenza shot when they are under the age of two, then they would be less likely to get it again,” she said.
She also believes there should be a central portal for parents that provides all the vaccine information that they need to make informed decisions.