A Brief Look At Canada’s Vaccination Requirements

Depending on where you live in Canada will depend on what vaccinations are mandatory, according to the Canadian Medical Association.

Canadian officials have chosen more of a hands off approach concerning legislation.  As, just three provinces have legislated vaccination policies, applying strictly to school age children.  Ontario and New Brunswick require immunization for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella immunization, while Manitoba requires a measles vaccination.

In each case, though, the legislation includes an exemption clause. Essentially, each of the three provinces allows parents to request that their child be exempted from the vaccination requirement on medical or religious grounds, or simply out of conscience. In such instances, in the event of a disease outbreak, unvaccinated children can be excluded from entering a school.

“The exclusion of nonimmunized individuals from entry during an outbreak situation is to protect the public and to contain the outbreak as quickly as possible,” Andrew Morrison, spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, writes in an email.

New Brunswick takes a similar approach and it’s “unlikely” that the province would ever “enforce mandatory vaccination for the population in general,” Danielle Phillips, spokesperson for the province’s Department of Health, writes in an email. “That being said, during something like a pandemic event, people who are not immunized might have to be excluded from certain social/ work environments where causing risk to others would be unacceptable.”

Phillips adds that if actions ever had to be taken against individuals, they would probably be in the form of isolation, quarantine or directly observed treatment.

For the most part, vaccination compliance rates appear high in most provinces.

In New Brunswick, for example, 93.6% of children entered kindergarten in the 2008–09 school year with the required vaccinations, Phillips writes.

In Ontario, “the vast majority of school pupils comply with the requirement to report their immunization status to attend school in the province,” Morrison writes. In the 2009–2010 school year, 84%–92% of students aged 7 to 17 had been vaccinated. “That means 8%–16% of school-aged children either did not report to local health units the appropriate number of required immunizations or have exemption on file,” he adds.

Theoretically, noncompliance can result in hefty penalties. In Ontario, failure to vaccinate children can result in a fine of up to $1000.

Other provinces, such as Alberta, which do not have any form of legislation governing vaccinations, nevertheless retain the authority to preclude students from attending school in the event of a disease outbreak. “Immunization in Alberta is voluntary; therefore no student is denied entrance into a school facility based on their immunization status. However, if there is a case or outbreak of measles in school setting, a child would be excluded from school until two weeks after the last case occurred if he/she is not immunized against measles,” the Alberta Ministry of Health writes.

The ministry added that “Alberta has not considered making school immunization mandatory since the immunization rates achieved to date are over 90% by the time a student leaves grade one.”

The federal government doesn’t appear inclined to step into the fray, noting that vaccination policies, and enforcement therein, fall within provincial jurisdiction.

“The Public Health Agency of Canada supports immunization as an effective means to protect Canadians from infectious diseases, and encourages all Canadians to keep their immunizations up-to-date,” Charlene Wiles, media relations advisor for the agency, writes in an email.



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