Excluded as far as April by Ontario, vaccine requirement was considered for the first time by city councillors late last month
Toronto ramps up vaccine efforts aimed at young kids, after province refuses to make COVID-19 shot mandatory
The Toronto city council has overwhelmingly passed a motion calling for mandatory vaccination requirements, as debate and controversy over health reform continue to make waves across Canada.
While Toronto is not large enough to set its own health policy, the result of Friday’s vote could nevertheless influence other jurisdictions and international policy debates.
Toronto is not one of Ontario’s nine regions, which make up what’s known as a “regional mandate”. Ontario still maintains the authority to legislate on policy matters. And one provincial health official had indicated that the province would be reluctant to crack down on immunization requirements after introducing laws in 2016 requiring allergy testing for peanut and fish allergy sufferers.
Toronto councillors had requested the shift before the Ontario cabinet this week said that it would no longer be considering “requiring children to receive a recommended vaccine”.
Council recommended a one-year delay on making the vaccine mandatory at a youth health centre between October and May. The cabinet’s announcement later barred implementation for that time.
Toronto is not large enough to set its own health policy, the result of Friday’s vote could nevertheless influence other jurisdictions and international policy debates. Photograph: Mark Blinch/Reuters
The Toronto Star reported that the only other jurisdiction with a broad adult vaccine mandate at this time was Quebec, where Council voted in 2008 to require mandatory inoculations for all ages.
The Toronto Children’s Health Centre serves more than 100,000 patients annually. The clinic has been at the center of discussions since February 2017, when it pushed for mandatory vaccines. “It’s about the great harm that can come from people being unvaccinated,” a clinic spokesperson told the Guardian in a piece published the following month.
“I haven’t spoken to anyone who was against it,” the centre’s director, Dr Ruth Stern-Bayda, told the Guardian.
Toronto makes case for mandatory vaccination as Ontario struggles to combat pandemic Read more
While the health centre called the surgery “necessary” in its letter, some criticized the paper for failing to note a significant amount of information in its lead-up story that moved public opinion in a positive direction.
The Toronto Star reported that 47% of people surveyed in an opinion poll by Siena College agreed mandatory vaccinations would not cause harm. It also noted that one in three Canadians do not believe vaccination should be mandatory.
In the 10 weeks since the clinic’s proposal first came to light, it has attracted roughly 750 reader responses. In Toronto, opinions on the public health topic are highly polarized. Those who say vaccination is important often point to children under two years old and the growing Ebola epidemic in Africa.
Public Health Ontario reported in December that overall flu vaccines were only covered 95% of the time. In the interview, Stern-Bayda said that Toronto averages 95% coverage.
But the clinic had had some safety issues with the vaccine. Two teenage employees at the clinic died after receiving a vaccine not included in the office’s current supply. A few weeks ago, an injection episode killed a child who had just received the vaccine.
“The real problem is the warehousing in the middle,” Stern-Bayda said. “They are said to be free. So it’s a clinical issue.”
Those concerns and public sentiment was apparent in the report that councillors just debated. The motion suggested that it was time for other jurisdictions and the government to take a more hands-on approach to child health. “It is obvious that there is a delay in global disease prevention,” read the report.