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Toronto Public Health calls on province to end non-medical exemptions for vaccines in schools

Toronto’s medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa is calling on the province to stop allowing children in Ontario schools to skip vaccines for non-medical reasons.

In a new report released on Monday, Dr. Eileen de Villa recommends Health Minister Christine Elliott consider changing the Immunization of School Pupils Act to only accept medical exemptions from a certified health-care provider.

“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,” de Villa wrote in the report.

Around the world vaccination rates are falling leading to instances of disease outbreaks in cities across Canada and the United States.

For Toronto students, there has been steady increase in philosophical and religious exemptions over the last decade and a bit, de Villa notes. Those increased from 0.8 per cent for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine in the 2006 to 2007 school year to 1.72 per cent last year.

The rising non-medical exemption rates elsewhere have led to major outbreaks of multiple vaccine-preventable diseases such as whopping cough and measles.

Several outbreaks have been reported in Canada throughout 2019, including a measles outbreak in the Montreal area in June.

Amid that outbreak, New York State eliminated the area’s religious exemption to vaccine requirements for schoolchildren earlier this year. “unprecedented public health crisis.”

Currently, under the Immunization of School Pupils Act, children are required to have proof of immunization for certain diseases to attend school in Ontario, unless there is a “valid medical exemption or affidavit of conscience or religious belief,” the health ministry’s Travis Kann noted in a statement.

De Villa is also calling on the board of health to request all Toronto school boards and the Ministry of Education to adopt curriculum on vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases for all elementary schools.

Her recommendations will be considered by the board on September 23. -CINEWS


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