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Toronto public health passes report that will seek end to religious exemptions for vaccines

Last Updated Sep 23, 2019 at 6:50 pm EDT

Toronto public health has unanimously passed a report that includes a proposal to ask the province to end philosophical and religious exemptions for vaccines.

At a meeting Monday, board members voted in favour of a new strategy proposed from the Chief Medical Officer of Health on how to address so-called “vaccine hesitancy.”

The reports lists eight recommendations including a request for the province to consider removing philosophical and religious exemptions under the Immunization Act.

“Vaccines are safe, they are effective and they are truly one of the most important contributors to improving health worldwide,” Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen De Villa said Monday.

But many attendees at the meeting expressed concerns.

“I do not consent to having myself or my children force-vaccinated … in order to attend public schools,” one angry deputant said.

The World Health Organization identifies the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate, despite the availability of vaccines, as one of the top 10 global health threats and a growing concern in this country.

In Canada, it’s estimated that 20 per cent of parents have questions about vaccines and go to the internet looking for answers, instead of talking to their doctor.

The report also recommends asking major search engines and social media platforms to adopt measures to reduce misinformation about vaccines.

De Villa says research shows vaccine-hesitant parents are mainly concerned about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, and often have trouble identifying credible evidence-based information sources.

“An informed dialogue between parents and their child’s health care provider is critical for helping parents make decisions about their child’s vaccinations,” she said in a release.

“This is why we are providing doctors and nurses with evidence-based vaccine information to help facilitate these important conversations.”