Less than a week after a measles outbreak in Saint John was declared over, the New Brunswick child and youth advocate says he will be examining the issue of mandatory vaccinations in the province.
“Is it in the best interest of the child to be immunized, too receive vaccinations? You know, 99.9 per cent of people in this province and probably in this country would say yes to that question, but there are groups and factions that would say no for various reasons,” said Norman Bosse.
The child and youth advocate is an independent position within the New Brunswick government intended to represent the best interests of children in the province.
The office takes the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as its guiding principle and will provide recommendations and take positions on government policy.
“People have to realize that their children have rights, it’s under the convention,” Bosse said.
“When our research is done and we’ve looked at it … we’ll inform government as to what our position is. Not in any way to affect their decision, but just to say this is the information we have from a child’s rights perspective and lens, here’s what we think would be in the best interest of the child.”
The government of Blaine Higgs has been particularly outspoken about removing non-medical exemptions from the mandatory vaccination policy for public school children that is already in place.
A month ago New Brunswick education minister Dominic Cardy told Global News that it’s time for the government to intervene, citing the 11 confirmed cases that were tied to schools in the Saint John region.
The government introduced legislation that would remove non-medical exemptions just before the legislature rose for the summer.
“Every day we delay, we’re endangering people,” Cardy said.
“If you have lower vaccination rates, this is your reality. You’ll see disease that we thought were dead and extinguished coming back and killing our kids, killing our adults and killing our vulnerable seniors.”
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Bosse says he intends to research what other jurisdictions have done in order to take a position on the legislation.
“Let’s look at what other jurisdictions have done, if they’ve done anything with respect to mandatory vaccination and let’s look at if there have been any cases decided in Canada in courts so that we can best inform government on this issue,” he said.
New Brunswick and Ontario are the only provinces that currently require proof of vaccination to register in the public school system.
Both provinces provide exemptions for medical and non-medical reasons. In New Brunswick an objecting parent must sign a form saying that they do not wish their child to be vaccinated.
Starting this fall British Columbia will introduce a mandatory vaccine registration system that does not prevent an unimmunized child from enrolling in school, but is intended to increase vaccination rates towards their 95 per cent target.
Bosse says his research should be done by the end of August at which point the office can take an official position.
“This office will take a position that’s in the best interest of the child,” he said.