Toronto Public Health asks Ford government to end philosophical and religious vaccine exemptions

Sep 17 2019, 6:40 am

As low vaccine rates continue to be a growing concern in Canada, Toronto Public Health (TPH) is calling on the Ford government to stop allowing children from skipping immunizations because of philosophical and religious reasons.

TPH is also requesting that major search engines and social media organizations develop stronger guidelines to help filter misinformation.

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In a new report that’s being presented at an upcoming Board of Health meeting, TPH is making eight recommendations that are aimed at improving parent’s hesitancy toward vaccinating their children, and above all, improve vaccine hesitancy in Toronto.

According to the report, public health officials estimate that in Canada, about 20% of parents are currently vaccine hesitant.

“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,” said Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, in her report.

“The reasons why people choose not to vaccinate their children are complex. Research shows that vaccine hesitant parents are mainly concerned about the safety and efficacy of vaccines, and often have difficulty identifying credible evidence-based information sources,” said Dr. de Villa.

“An informed dialogue between parents and their child’s health care provider is critical for helping parents make decisions about their child’s vaccinations. This is why we are providing doctors and nurses with evidence-based vaccine information to help facilitate these important conversations.”

In the report, de Villa said the board of health should ask the province to consider removing philosophical and religious exemptions under the Immunization of School Pupils Act and only allow medical exemptions. Medical exemptions must be approved by a certified health care provider.

Dr. de Villa is also recommending that social media organizations and major search engines, including Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram, adopt measures to reduce misinformation about vaccines on their platforms.

The report will officially be presented during a board meeting on September 23.