The provincial government reintroduced legislative amendments Friday to remove non-medical exemptions from the mandatory immunization requirements for admission to public schools and licenced early learning and child care centres.
Government stated in a media release that the amendments are to the Education Act and the Public Health Act.
In tabling the legislation, Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Dominic Cardy said the government is willing to protect the legislation against possible challenges using the seldom-used notwithstanding clause, also known as Section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“Over the past year, there have been outbreaks of diseases which are preventable by vaccine that put the health and safety of our students at risk,” said Cardy in a media release.
“We remain committed to helping to protect the most vulnerable people within our population and will use every power we have to ensure New Brunswick’s schools and daycares are safe for our children.”
The government said the proposed legislation comes in the wake of similar policy decisions made elsewhere in the world.
In Germany, for example, legislation will make measles immunizations mandatory for all children and staff in kindergartens and schools, medical facilities, and community facilities, starting in March 2020.
“The provincial government is concerned about outbreaks around the world, such as the situation in Samoa where the lack of an immunization program has resulted in deaths and the declaration of a state of emergency,” said Cardy.
The legislative amendments introduced would require students attending public schools and children in licenced early learning and child care facilities — either currently enrolled or being admitted for the first time — to provide either proof of immunization or a medical exemption on a form signed by a medical professional.
“Vaccines are a safe and proven way to prevent the spread of many potentially life-threatening diseases,” said Cardy.
“This legislation is protecting individuals with compromised immune systems and will help keep our children safe, healthy and ready to learn.”