Toronto sends 600 schoolchildren vaccines against measles – before telling them to pay for it

One scientist urges criticism of city, saying ‘it’s fraught with misinterpretation and lack of communication’

Marilyn Poirier, who leads the Public Health Agency of Canada, says that fewer than 1,300 city of Toronto employees are “adjudicated” for refusing to vaccinate their children under Toronto’s new vaccination requirements – out of 28,500 who are expected to be sent letters explaining why they should be allowed to keep their kids in the program.

Toronto passes code of practice, mandates that children under the age of five must be vaccinated Read more

The city passed a resolution earlier this week stating that all children under the age of five in Toronto would have to be vaccinated in a 60-day window or they will not be allowed to attend public childcare and other child care programs. The resolution marked the first time in the nation’s largest city that it required all children to be vaccinated.

Recent studies have suggested that vaccinations can lead to complications that can be more severe than traditional vaccines – such as the shot to prevent measles, which can make a child seriously ill. The city will be sending a letter to parents explaining the impending law, which will now be in effect on 1 August.

Exemptions to the vaccine mandate will not be able to be made until after they have been sent home in these letters, which were sent out Thursday, according to a city spokesperson.

Public health officials point out that the city only brings about 600 children in for the vaccines every year, less than 1% of the population, as the city only houses more than 2 million people.

By law, municipal workers like Dr. Poirier have to pay into the healthcare system as a means of covering the cost of vaccinations, but the city is not required to pay for such vaccines for non-medical employees. Public health staff have been working with parents for more than two years to bring about the resolution, to the point that only a small number of cases have been brought to light, Poirier told the Guardian.

“It’s a well-intentioned piece of legislation that doesn’t have a good history of implementation,” said Poirier, who was appointed to her position in 2014. “It’s fraught with misinterpretation and lack of communication.”

Poirier said that the definition of “medical exemption” has been violated, meaning that Toronto has been paying medical bills of non-vaccinating employees and their families. In the past year, she said that she has sent letters to more than 1,500 city employees, telling them that they must comply with the law or pay their medical costs.

“Most of them see the rationale,” Poirier said. “The result has been that we have a system that violates the law.”

Critics have made their concerns about the new rules known on social media and blogs. One doctor, Dr. Steven Eshleman, said that he was receiving criticism from outside of his profession from those who claimed that he was following a the anti-vaccination movement.

“One person told me they could lose their job,” said Eshleman, who has moved to Ontario from Utah where he says that pharmaceutical companies make up the large portion of the “vaccine lobby” in the US.

Other doctors have defended the government’s stance, saying that being forced to vaccinate children will put public health at risk, not protecting public health.

“Saying there is no link is a myth,” said Dr Nadine Stevens, a Toronto pediatrician and mother of three. “There is evidence that vaccines can cause autism. If a child has an illness, it’s necessary for them to be vaccinated. I have nothing against vaccinations, I have nothing against my child having the right to attend the park.”

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