‘There are no two sides’ to vaccine debate, N.B. education minister says

Click to play video: 'N.B. education minister comes down hard on anti-vaccine activists' N.B. education minister comes down hard on anti-vaccine activists
WATCH: Anti-vaccination activists from as far away as California made their way to Fredericton to speak to lawmakers on Tuesday, as the legislature considers a bill to remove non-medical exemptions for public school students. Silas Brown reports. – Aug 27, 2019

New Brunswick Education Minister Dominc Cardy kicked off a sitting of the standing committee on law amendments regarding mandatory vaccinations for school children with a call to protect children in the public school system.

“There are no two sides around the safety of vaccines,” Cardy said. “There are two sides around the discussion on the mandate for vaccines, and again, we start off with over 80 per cent of New Brunswickers being in support of the position taken by government with this bill.”

READ MORE: New Brunswick government to launch public consultations on mandatory immunization bill

A three-day hearing on proposed amendments to the province’s vaccine bill that would remove non-medical exemptions for children in the public school system got underway on Tuesday, with two hours of testimony from Cardy who began with a short history of the worldwide anti-vaccine movement.

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Cardy argued that this is not about the science of vaccines, which is clear, but rather about the safety of the public school system.

“We’re not here to have a scientific debate. I’m not a scientist. I don’t believe anyone else around the table here is a scientist,” Cardy said.

“This is a question about what is an appropriate step for the government of this province to take in protecting the citizens of this province. That is the discussion that we’re having.”

WATCH: New Brunswick youth advocate looks at mandatory vaccination

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick youth advocate looks at mandatory vaccination' New Brunswick youth advocate looks at mandatory vaccination
New Brunswick youth advocate looks at mandatory vaccination – Jul 10, 2019

For those who do not wish to have their children vaccinated, Cardy said they have other options than the public school system to educate their children.

“There are options for parents that believe fundamentally … that vaccines are dangerous or wrong, regardless of how unfounded and dangerous those views might be. Those parents still have a choice. There are a range of schools in the province that will accommodate those parents who believe that misinformation,” he said.

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Cardy says at a threshold of two per cent of unvaccinated students, there would be “catastrophic” consequences for the system. Currently there are 1,618 students who have exemptions, which is 1.6 per cent, he said.

The numbers do not, however, include the 18 per cent of records that are incomplete. Cardy also says there is a 3 per cent vaccine failure rate, leaving a 2 per cent threshold to meet the 95 per cent vaccination target.

READ MORE: N.B chief medical officer of health says measles outbreak ‘officially over’

During the question-and-answer portion, Cardy said any parent can choose to have their child home-schooled or sent to a private school, but that if they want to send their child through the public system they should be vaccinated for the protection of others.

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