Ontario Wants Anti-Vaxxers to Take a Mandatory Science Class

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

One of the greatest parental debates out there is the one regarding vaccination. In fact, in 2016, “to vaccinate or not to vaccinate” remains the ultimate question in many countries, as a substantial number of parents continue to simply opt out of vaccinating their kids, despite medical recommendations. However, Canadian lawmakers are looking to change all that, starting in Ontario, with a recently proposed piece of legislation: a law that would require parents and/or guardians to attend an “education session” before their children can be exempt from receiving any vaccination.

According to CBC News, if passed, the proposal would also “require health-care providers to report to the public health unit what vaccines are given to children, in an attempt to reduce school suspensions over out-of-date immunization records.” Currently, the Immunization of School Pupils Act requires Ontario children to receive certain vaccines before they can attend school, including diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (aka, whooping cough), measles, mumps, rubella, polio and meningococcal disease. In Ontario, if parents choose not to immunize their children for medical, religious, or philosophical reasons, they must produce a valid signed exemption form.

However, as Eric Hoskins, Ontario’s minister of health and long-term care, reiterated in a statement given last Thursday, “choosing to vaccinate your child [not only] protects them from [acquiring the] disease, and it protects vulnerable children who can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons.” Hoskins also added, “that’s why it’s important for parents to keep their children’s immunizations up to date.”

It’s also the reason why education on this subject is so very important. As Ontario’s former chief medical officer of health, Dr. Arlene King, once explained, there are a lot of “unfounded [and] unsubstantiated … myths [out there] about vaccines” and their dangers.

Concerns that immunizations may be unsafe first came to light back in 1998, when Dr. Andrew Wakefield published a research paper that linked vaccinations with autism. However, thanks to investigative journalist Brian Deer, not only was Wakefield’s work disproven, the study was officially retracted in 2010 and Wakefield was stripped of his medical license, according to The Huffington Post.

Unfortunately, the damage was already done, and the “vaccination debate” was born — in America and abroad. In fact, according to the Canadian Paediatric Society, 20% of all parents are still hesitant about vaccines, and those hesitations have led to outbreaks of many infectious diseases once considered eradicated.

But it’s not just in Canada. In 2014, there was also a large-scale measles outbreak stateside, too — in Orange County, California — and there have been whooping cough outbreaks in several Canadian provinces, and in the Northwest Territories.

And while these educational classes are sure to be a good start, as Durham University anthropologist Thom Scott-Phillips explained, they are but one piece in a very large and complicated puzzle.

“Naïve theories of all kinds tend to persist even in the face of contradictory arguments and evidence,” said Scott-Phillips. “Interestingly, they persist even in the minds of those who, at a more reflexive level of understanding, know them to be false.”

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