Is mandatory vaccination a good idea?

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Last week New Brunswick’s Minister of Education Dominic Cardy announced that the government would be attempting, for a second time, to put through a mandatory vaccination bill.

Education Minister Dominic Cardy. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

The bill states that children can no longer be exempt from mandatory vaccinations for philosophical or non-medical reasons. They also stated in one section of the bill that they would use the notwithstanding clause for 10 provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedom if necessary, to ensure that the bill is passed.

What is the Notwithstanding Clause?

The notwithstanding clause was added to the Constitution in 1982 and allows provinces to temporarily override certain rights from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for five years, at which point the bill must be reviewed. If the bill is passed in the House, it would mean that individuals could not invoke certain freedoms from the Charter, such as freedom of religion, as a reason to not vaccinate their children.

The use of the notwithstanding clause would also mean that the bill cannot be struck down by the courts for constitutional reasons included in the 10 provisions. The notwithstanding clause has only been used a handful of times since put in place by Pierre Trudeau’s government.

Public backlash to bill announcement

This announcement has caused a lot of controversy and backlash from anti-vaccination groups in the country, just as the first attempt to pass the bill did.

Vaccination is crucial for the prevention and eradication of many illnesses. Some illnesses that commonly killed and disabled people in the past are virtually unheard of now-all because of vaccination. Vaccines are why, for most of your life, you haven’t come across people with diseases such as polio, tuberculosis, or smallpox. Statistics from the Canadian government show that vaccines have been effective in reducing the incidence of numerous illnesses by up to 99%.

The myths, debunked

“People still get these ‘eradicated’ diseases, though.”

We keep hearing in the news stories of children contracting illnesses that we had previously virtually eradicated, such as the measles. This is due to either the parents of those children, or those around them, choosing to not have their children vaccinated.

Vaccination is crucial not just for you but for those around you. Many are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons, such as severe allergies to necessary components of vaccines, pregnancy, or being immunosuppressed from being sick. This is why individuals who are able to be vaccinated need to be.

When everyone is vaccinated, at-risk individuals are protected.

Herd immunity is when a community is effectively protected from an illness, but it requires a 95% vaccination rate. This shows how important it is, for everyone who can, to be up to date on all applicable vaccines. Your commitment to vaccination is not just important for you, but for the health of your community. The information that has been spread about dangers of vaccines is false, and groups such as Vaccine Choice Canada’s protests against mandatory vaccines are unfounded. Health Canada has stated many times that vaccines are safe, and the risks associated with receiving them are extremely low. Here are some common myths around vaccinations:

“Vaccines can cause autism.”

This myth came out of a single study published in 1998 that was debunked very quickly. The author was forced to retract the publication in 2010, but the information has had a lasting impact. Numerous studies have been published refuting this connection between autism and vaccines. The author lost his medical license, mistreated developmentally disabled children, and falsified results. The worst side effects you can acquire from vaccines are usually irritation and soreness at the sight of the injection, which may be uncomfortable but does not pose a health risk.

“Vaccines contain harmful ingredients.”

Vaccines contain ingredients that are important to allow it to be safely administered and stored. We are exposed to these ingredients within the vaccine at much smaller doses than we already are exposed to in our natural environment.

“Vaccine-preventable diseases are just a normal part of childhood.”

Many illnesses that are considered “minor” can cause serious complications that may require hospitalization, especially to people who are already sick with another illness. The common flu, for example, is one of the top 10 causes of death in Canada.

“People can acquire the illness from the vaccine.”

The organism within the vaccine is inactivated, meaning it is dead, and it is impossible to become sick from it. The presence of the virus will cause an immune response from the body, so you are protected in case you come into contact with a live version of it in your environment.

“I don’t need to be immunized because people around me are already.”

People not being vaccinated when they are able to decreases herd immunity, which affects those who cannot be immunized even if they wanted. This increases the spread of these illnesses very quickly, as it has been seen in the news lately.

“Vaccines are a form of mind control.”

No, they aren’t.

You aren’t only putting yourself at risk when you don’t vaccinate, you’re putting your new baby sister who is too young to receive certain vaccines, Grandma who is immunocompromised, and anyone else who cannot vaccinate.

This mandatory vaccination bill could be the change that changes the recent and potentially disastrous resurgence of many preventable and dangerous illnesses. With the difficulty of passing certain legislation with our current minority government, hopefully MLAs on the other side of the House can see its value and how it will potentially save the lives of many New Brunswickers.