Opposition Liberals want to see mandatory vaccinations for children in P.E.I. schools

The P.E.I. Liberal opposition wants to make vaccinations mandatory for Island children to attend schools.

During Wednesday's sitting of the legislature, MLA Heath MacDonald asked if it would be a concept government would be willing to consider. 

"Do we have an obligation to protect the health of children and the administration, the teachers, the staff, the bus drivers, the custodians, everybody in the school?" MacDonald asked.

Currently, New Brunswick MLAs are considering a bill on mandatory vaccination, even discussing using the notwithstanding clause to avoid a constitutional challenge on the proposed new law.

Anti-vaccination activists have said they will fight such a law in court.

MacDonald acknowledged that there are specific cases where medical exemption is required, but otherwise P.E.I. should be aiming for a 100 per cent immunization rate among Island students, regardless of opposition.

"I realize the anti-vax community is loud and shrill and they will argue wrong-headed positions for a long, long time and they're well-funded but I believe that protecting the public health of children supersedes concerns voiced by anti-vax," he said.

The legislative assembly already agreed to send the issue of childhood vaccinations to a standing committee during Tuesday's evening sitting.

No commitment from government

But during debate Wednesday, government would not make any commitments to make the vaccination of Island students mandatory.

Health Minister James Aylward said government takes the lead from the provincial chief public health officer and that right now the office is "not suggesting that recommendation."

Earlier this year, P.E.I.'s Chief Health officer Heather Morrison said the Island's vaccination rate for children entering Grade 1 last year was 95 per cent. Something she described as providing "herd immunity" for preventing an outbreak in a school. 

"I would caution ... sounding the alarm bells too high," said Premier Dennis King, during question period Wednesday.

"If some such a thing were to occur that would ring the bells and say that we need to make this mandatory, I think we'd have to convene as a legislature and make sure we did that in the best interests of all Islanders."

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