Parents in Ontario who want to send their kids to school unvaccinated must now first attend a class of their own.
Conducted one-on-one or in groups as large as 50 at their local health units, the mandatory “vaccine education” sessions for parents pursuing exemptions consists mainly of a video screening, with a nurse on hand to answer any questions. The 25-minute government-prescribed film features a cheery musical soundtrack, footage of smiling families and animated characters — kids playing soccer, dogs, a rainbow — along with information to counter popular myths among “anti-vaxxers.”
But since it was introduced in 2017, thousands of mothers and fathers have dutifully watched the video, collected their “Vaccine Education Certificate” — then continued to duck the shots.
As one public health manager put it: “We had a zero percent conversion rate.”
That’s not only a colossal waste of time and money, some health policy experts say, but the education sessions may actually entrench resistance among parents claiming exemptions based on religious belief or “conscience.”
With the resurgence of dreaded, entirely preventable illnesses like measles and whooping cough, there are renewed calls for compulsory shots, not only for school-aged children but for babies and toddlers as well, with no waivers or opt-outs except for medical reasons.
Right now, only Ontario and New Brunswick require any proof of immunization for school attendance. But both provinces allow nonmedical exemptions, and in Ontario they are rising: Among seven-year-olds registered for school in 2012-2013, philosophical and religious objections accounted for 89 per cent of all exemptions.
Until recently, parents dodging vaccines in Ontario were simply required to submit a sworn affidavit stating their objections. The bar was raised slightly with the amendment of the Immunization of School Pupils Act to require attendance at exemption classes.
The video featured at such sessions debunks the junk science spread by celebrities, as well as defrocked doctors such as Britain’s Andrew Wakefield, whose 1998 study in The Lancet linking the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine with autism will go down as one of the most breathtakingly fraudulent papers in modern medicine.
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But Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, says the goal isn’t to scare, berate or coerce parents. It’s …read more