B.C.’s health minister says requiring children to be vaccinated to attend public and private schools could get held up in the courts.
Adrian Dix was in Kamloops on Friday to take part in a health-care Q&A with Mayor Ken Christian at a Kamloops Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
In light of measles outbreaks in the Vancouver area, KTW asked Dix whether government can make mandatory vaccinations for children attending public and private schools.
He pointed to Ontario law, which has since 1990 required vaccinations, but provides exemptions for medical and philosophical use.
“What I think we don’t want is a program where a desire to increase immunization rates becomes a battle in the courts,” Dix said.
Additionally, he said Ontario’s system has resulted in a 91 per cent vaccination rate, which he said falls short of a 95 per cent goal.
“So they’re not there yet even with that. It doesn’t just require laws or systems or mandatory registration,” Dix said.
“Those things will help, but they’re not sufficient. We also have to, I think, do a better job of engaging with people and getting people immunized.”
He said there has not been a single case of measles reported this year in Interior Health, noting a “dramatic increase” — more than 100 per cent in children and more than 150 per cent overall — in immunization rates this year.
“Which tells you that people are getting information and getting immunized,” Dix said,
Asked if children not immunized can be prohibited from attending public and private schools, Dix said that would require denying children access to education, noting “no jurisdiction in Canada does that.”
Asked if that would be illegal, he replied: “That would be determined in the courts.”
Dix said the government’s plan for a mandatory provincial registry of immunization comes via recommendation of medical experts and health authorities.
“It allows us to ensure that everybody understands that their child is immunized and everyone at the school understands what children are immunized,” Dix said.
“And it allows us to talk to people who aren’t and to promote that. That’s what we’re going to do and that’s what we plan to do.”