Parents in the Canadian province of Ontario who choose not to vaccinate their children for non-medical reasons may have to take science classes before they go through with their decision. While it will not prevent parents from objecting on moral or religious grounds, it is hoped that by explaining the science behind vaccinations, some parents will make the choice from a better informed perspective.
The legislation has been tabled by Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins, and is now waiting to be passed, which is looking likely to happen. “Choosing to vaccinate your child protects them from disease, and it protects vulnerable children who can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons,” explains Dr. Hoskins in a statement. “That’s why it’s important for parents to keep their children’s immunizations up-to-date.”
It is already law for all children who attend school in Ontario to have immunizations for common childhood diseases – such as diphtheria, tetanus, measles, and polio, among others – unless they are exempt for medical reasons. These are normally children who have compromised immune systems, such as those undergoing cancer treatment or with autoimmune diseases, and are therefore more susceptible to getting ill. But parents can also apply for exemptions based on moral or religious grounds, though if there is an outbreak, then they can be made to keep their children at home due to the risk they will perpetuate and spread the outbreak further.
The new legislation will mean that any parent who is considering not immunizing their child will have to take a science class before applying for a vaccine exemption. Only after they have had a health professional explain to them the science behind vaccinations, and why it is important that the majority of children are immunized, will they then be able to make the choice of whether to allow their child to be vaccinated.
“If passed, the proposed amendments to the Immunization of School Pupils Act would help parents and guardians make informed decisions about vaccination,” said Dr. Hoskins. “The changes would also make keeping track of their child’s immunization records easier on parents, which contributes to the health and well-being of all Ontarians.”