A B.C. judge has ordered the vaccination of two children over the objections of their mother, who questioned the safety of immunization.
The case went to provincial court in Salmon Arm, in B.C.'s southern interior, because of the father's concerns about recent measles outbreaks and a warning that education officials might not allow his two sons to attend school during an outbreak unless they were immunized.
The mother attempted to introduce a report into evidence written by a U.S. doctor who testified in the high-profile case of a Michigan mother who fought for years to keep from vaccinating her young daughter.
But Judge Stella Frame questioned Dr. Toni Lynn Bark's qualifications to speak about immunology, virology or epidemiology as well as her claims to be an expert in "vaccine adversomics."
"It is difficult to know whether or not this is junk science or a recognized emerging field," Frame wrote in her eight-page decision.
"Presented as it is in her report, her theory or opinion sounds like a conspiracy theory."
'Vaccination is preferable to non-vaccination'
The ruling highlights the role of the courts in adjudicating splits between parents divided over vaccination.
Frame's decision refers to an earlier B.C. Supreme Court decision in which a judge rejected attempts to link vaccines to autism. Frame said she had reached the same conclusion.
"The current best evidence is that vaccination is preferable to non-vaccination, that it is required in order to protect those who cannot be vaccinated as well as to protect ourselves, and that any adverse reaction the person may have from the vaccine is largely outweighed by the risk of contracting the targeted disease," Frame wrote.
The parents at the heart of the case are referred to by their initials in the ruling, which comes after an application from the father — DRB.
DRB and DAT have two boys from a five-year relationship that began in 2012. Both children are healthy, have no immunity problems and no ailments that would make them ineligible for live vaccines.
But DAT has refused to consent to vaccination or X-rays done at the dentist's office.
According to the ruling, her opposition to X-rays led to one child needing a root canal, a filling and teeth removed.
"DRB said that multiple dentists at the dentist office had recommended that they do those X-rays," the ruling says.
'That is simply not the case'
DAT claimed she worked at a health centre and "was having discussions with various people about what was happening around these flu vaccines."
She said she had gone to see a naturopath who spoke about adverse reactions. DAT decided she wanted the boys tested for a gene variant as well as allergies and food sensitivities before being vaccinated.
DRB was opposed to paying for testing that he felt was unnecessary.
The report from Bark was actually written for another child, but the mother offered it to DAT to help her argue her case.
Bark, an Illinois doctor, has spoken frequently in opposition to vaccines and testified as a witness in support of Lori Matheson, a Detroit mother who made headlines in the U.S. fighting vaccination.
Although the judge in that case allowed Bark to testify about her own practice, she refused to qualify Bark as an expert witness on vaccinations, reaching a similar conclusion to Frame about Bark's claims and credentials.
"One of the diseases that she claimed is very low risk to contract is measles," Frame wrote.
"That is simply not the case. She also identifies tuberculosis, which is also not eradicated in some parts of Canadian communities. She believes these vaccinations are unnecessary because the identified or targeted diseases have essentially disappeared from developed countries."
'The responsibility of the parents'
For his part, DRB introduced two binding B.C. Supreme Court decisions in which judges concluded that the benefits of vaccination outweighed the risks of not being immunized, along with excerpts from reports about the value of immunization from a series of medical and research organizations.
Frame noted that not everyone is recommended for immunization, but the two boys did not fall into that category.
"That does not mean to say that parents should blindly follow whatever medical advice they are given. Errors — sometimes catastrophic ones — can be made by the pharmaceutical and medical industries," the judge wrote.
"It remains the responsibility of the parents to hear the advice, ask the questions, do the research and reach the appropriate decision for their children."
Frame decided that DRB should have sole responsibility for the medical and dental treatments for both boys and that they should be immunized according to Immunization B.C.'s immunization schedule.