Toronto’s top public health official is urging the Ontario government to consider halting the practice of letting schoolchildren skip vaccinations because their parents claim religious or philosophical objections.
Dr. Eilieen de Villa made the controversial recommendation to end all but medical exemptions — along with numerous other measures aimed at combating the spread of misinformation about vaccines that threaten to lower overall immunity — in a report released Monday.
“Consider removing philosophical and religious exemptions under the Immunization of School Pupils Act and only accept medical exemptions completed by a certified health care provider,” she wrote in the report.
Vaccination in Ontario is mandatory for schoolchildren but parents can invoke exemptions for their kids based on medical, religious or philosophical grounds.
With an estimated one-fifth of Canadian parents hesitant or unsure about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, de Villa said, public health has a “major role in educating the public to make informed choices based on evidence, to correct misinformation and to ultimately protect the health of the community by maintaining high vaccination rates.”
Board members asked her to formulate recommendations over the protests of some people who told them public health should not try to drown out their message that vaccination carries risks, and that parents have the right to decide for their children.