A group of parents is calling on Alberta’s major cities or the province to overturn facility mandates requiring older children be vaccinated against COVID-19 and to ban any such policy for younger children.
As the COVID-19 vaccine for children five to 11 rolls out across the country, Families for Choice says it’s paramount vaccine requirements are not put in place for young kids to play sports or attend public recreation facilities.
Standing outside Calgary’s YMCA, which requires proof of vaccination for anyone aged 12 or older, Cathryn Carruthers said too many children have been forced to the sidelines of organized sport.
“You can’t go to a Flames game, you can’t ski,” said Carruthers.
“For us, this issue is more about mandates and seclusion, exclusions and segregation and discrimination of children, versus the vaccine itself.
“It’s very concerning. In fact, it’s devastating for these families and kids.
“These kids have had so much disruption for almost two years. They need to connect with their peers, they need to participate in sports.”
On its website, Families for Choice stated its members are vaccinated and unvaccinated against COVID-19, but united in their mission to safeguard the rights of families to choose whether and when to vaccinate their children.
“COVID-19 vaccination status should never be a basis upon which to exclude or segregate children,” said the written statement.
Alberta does not require youth under the age of 18 to show proof of vaccination, but Calgary and Edmonton brought in their own mandates.
The restrictions exemption program for Alberta states that proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test is not required for youth participating in activities, but that an operator may choose to require that.
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the province had no plans to extend the vaccine mandate to pediatric (5-11) patients.
Carruthers said the cost for families choosing not to vaccinate their children and show a negative COVID-19 test instead is adding up.
“Nobody can afford an extra mortgage just for testing.”
Last month, Hinshaw credited vaccine passports for a “slow and steady decline in hospitalizations.”
Health Canada said children under the age of 12 are leading the country with COVID-19 infections.
Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical advisor, said: “The department has determined that the benefits of this vaccine outweigh the potential risks in this younger age group.”
Carruthers said families should consult with their doctors, but the mother of two said she and many other parents believe their choice whether or when to vaccinate their children should not impact their extracurricular activities.
“There is no relationship more sacred than that between parent and child,” Carruthers said.
She is worried vaccine passports could affect the physical and mental health of teens and said she has heard stories of friends not being allowed to spend time together because of their vaccination status.
“There’s a lot of very worried parents out there.”
Ealier this month, Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange sent an open letter to school boards reminding them COVID-19 vaccines are not mandatory for Alberta students.
“Individual family choices need to be respected,” said LaGrange, “and students should not be stigmatized for their vaccination status.”
Alberta Health Services said COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective for children and parents are able to pre-register online.