School closures: children are now allowed to return to classes, on the eve of National Immunization Week
A law designed to bring order to classrooms after a summer of anti-vaccination protests in Quebec City will not compel public elementary and high school teachers and other school staff to be vaccinated.
Earlier this year, the Quebec government introduced the bill, which would expand the reach of an existing anti-vaccination law, banning unvaccinated students from school and requiring private and religious schools to re-vaccinate staff. In October 2016, a Quebec court rejected a lawsuit by a student against the province in a case on anti-vaccination, as a counter-move to a vaccination bill.
The government proposed new legislation earlier this year: to mandate compulsory vaccination for elementary and high school teachers and other school staff; however, a previous compromise to voluntarily vaccinate teachers failed.
After a successful campaign by the group COSI Quebec for parents to be allowed to opt out of vaccinations, prompting the government to replace the bill, school employees can only be asked to be vaccinated on a case-by-case basis.
“This law does not impose mandatory vaccination, because the law is actually based on individual rights,” Health minister Gaétan Barrette said on Wednesday, CBC News reported. “The obligation to vaccinate does not already exist.”
Anti-vaccination activists across Canada launch ‘tsunami’ of protests as they target schools Read more
The law has been dubbed a tool of “intimidation” because it would mandate that French-language teachers in English-speaking schools be vaccinated, as well as private and religious schools. And because so many public schools opted out of the immunization mandate, 30,000 of Quebec’s 87,000 students have been forced to stay home this year.
While the law’s revision is not going to spell an end to the anti-vaccination movement in Quebec City, it is sure to strengthen the political stance taken by provincial leaders, following an increasingly grim public health picture in the province.
According to the provincial department of health, the number of measles infections this year, compared to the same period last year, has doubled in the province.
Measles is not uncommon: between 1958 and 2000, Canada was home to an outbreak of a relatively low of roughly 52,000 cases, even with a higher population of Canadians than now.
The disease has since become more widespread, with 60 percent of outbreaks occurring since 2005. As the number of people coming down with measles rises, so too does the potential for health scares to compound the problem.