• This article was updated on 10 October to reflect that many of the students affected by the decision to prevent school immunizations may be from London and District Catholic School Board
As Ontario’s Education Ministry passed a bill requiring vaccinations for schoolchildren in the province, some Londoners have thrown their support behind efforts to overturn the ruling.
Under the province’s new legislation, known as COVID-19, children could be held out of class for as long as one week as an extra education component to protect them from potential vaccine preventable diseases. Many parents would waive the one-week requirement. Others, including the board’s majority Catholic school board, opposed the move.
According to Ontario’s highest court, the Department of Health can force certain “modest prophylactic immunizations” for children. The government argues the laws are necessary to ensure students are vaccinated against serious infections.
In March, an Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that the Ontario Healthcare Protection Act could be used to demand that all children receive those vaccinations – including several covered by the Public Health Act.
The Ontario Health Protection and Promotion Act, which prescribes more stringent vaccination requirements, was first passed in 1998.
Dr Pam Braun, senior health officer with the London Health Unit, said her group received about 18 calls on Friday from parents and professionals asking that the COVID-19 law be appealed. Many of the calls came from people whose children were affected by the ruling, she said.
The Children’s Health Initiative, a non-profit that studies health and development, estimated that many of the affected students may be from the city’s District Catholic School Board.
The board has about 1,000 students who have not been vaccinated, DSCB superintendent of communications Mike Kane said.
Most parents who are eligible to choose vaccination exemptions from the state may seek a certificate from their doctor instead of enrolling their child, even for reasons that would put them on the list of students not to be immunized.
According to one of the DCSB’s documents, the vaccine “doctrine was put into force to protect children from the effects of vaccine-preventable diseases as it now in-creases” in their age groups.
Braun said she was not convinced some students are seeking out the exemptions as part of a health conspiracy to promote anti-vaccination views.
Braun said the Health Unit’s program aims to keep a “high level of public safety”. It has vaccinated 20,000 students since 2014. Last year, 33 were hospitalized from Hib disease, the virus that caused the measles outbreak in the US, and 19 required hospitalization after being exposed to whooping cough.