An online petition is calling on the provincial government to make vaccinations mandatory in B.C. schools following a second reported case of measles in Vancouver, and an outbreak of that disease south of the border.
The petition, which as of Thursday afternoon had more than 1,800 signatures, asks Premier John Horgan to amend B.C.’s current enrolment policy to include mandatory vaccines except with medical exemption.
It was launched by Maple Ridge mom Katie Clunn, who says one concern people have is that they don’t want to give up their right to choose what is best for their family.
She says mandatory vaccines won’t force anyone to vaccinate because parents would have the choice to home school their children. She adds the move would protect the most vulnerable children, including those with compromised immune systems and babies who have not yet been vaccinated.
Clunn, who is pregnant with her third child, says she launched the petition not just out of concern for her own children but also on behalf of all the vulnerable children and adults with health concerns.
“If your child is going through chemo you should know how many kids haven’t been vaccinated,” she said Thursday. “Four year olds with leukaemia shouldn’t be scared to visit their friends at school.”
She notes that schools protect kids with allergies, for example, by banning peanuts, something Clunn says she wholeheartedly supports, but don’t protect kids who are at risk of developing a preventable disease like measles.
She hopes the government will take note of the deadly outbreak in Europe and the state of emergency in Washington and reconsider making vaccines mandatory at schools.
Postmedia requested an interview with the chief medical health officer; however, a spokeswoman with the Ministry of Health said Dr. Bonnie Henry was unavailable Thursday.
“You are always entitled to choice, but you are not exempt from the consequences of your choices. We cannot send unvaccinated (children) to school for the safety of those who can’t be vaccinated, as well as for the safety of those who won’t vaccinate,” said Clunn.
What do you think? Should parents have to show proof of vaccines before school enrolment?
On Wednesday, Vancouver Coastal Health confirmed a second case of measles in Vancouver in a week. The news comes as there is an outbreak of measles in Washington State, where 54 cases of the disease have been confirmed. Gov. Jay Inslee has declared a state of emergency because of the outbreak.
At least eight people have died in Ukraine, where 53,000 cases have been reported. The skyrocketing measles rates there are believed to be due to vaccine refusal as well as a temporary breakdown in vaccine orders by the government.
In Vancouver, health officials said the latest case was transmitted locally, and confirmed that the person is a school-age child.
The first case, acquired abroad, was confirmed on Saturday.
Last year, six cases were confirmed across B.C., up from a single case in 2017 and two cases in 2016, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.
B.C. last experienced a measles outbreak in 2014, when 343 cases were reported, most of them linked to an outbreak in a religious community that objects to vaccination.
The World Health Organization named “vaccine hesitancy” one of its top 10 threats to global health in 2019. Measles saw a 30 per cent increase in cases globally between 2016 and 2017, and a resurgence in some countries that were close to eliminating it, according to the organization.
Ontario and New Brunswick have mandatory immunizations with exceptions and proof must be shown at the time of school enrolment.
With files from Nick Eagland and The Associated Press