Any parent can tell you how quickly a bug can spread throughout a classroom and school, with children regularly coming home with sniffles and sneezes – or sometimes worse.
But would it help if school officials knew which children had received their routine immunizations and which had not? Canada’s doctors seem to think so, although St. Albert parents appear torn on the issue.
Canada’s doctors passed a resolution last week at the Canadian Medical Association annual general meeting in Halifax calling on governments to authorize public schools to require parents provide immunization records.
While not calling for mandatory vaccinations, implementing the recommendation would mean schools could refer inadequately immunized children to public health officials to have discussions about immunization.
Around St. Albert last weekend, parents the Gazette spoke to were split.
John Logan said the fact unvaccinated kids may tend to endanger others who are unable to be vaccinated due to allergies or compromised immune systems is all the reason he needs to advocate not just for parents providing records, but for schools requiring mandatory immunizations.
Ultimately, it comes down to letting parents make that decision, but also forcing them to deal with the repercussions.
“I’m not allowed to send peanuts to school, but you can send your un-immunized kid? I don’t think it’s unfair (to require immunization),” he said. “You made a choice, but you have to realize when you make choices it limits what you can do.”
Jerry-Lynn Jorgensen expressed a similar opinion, seeing no problem with schools having access to records, although she stopped short of advocating for mandatory vaccines.
“I think that’s the way it should be in public school,” she said. “If they’re attending public school, the school should be made aware of who’s vaccinated and who isn’t. If they don’t want to vaccinated, they can home-school or whatever.”
Terry Watson agreed as well, saying it’s about parents having the right to know what their children may be exposed to.
“We’re OK with people knowing our child is vaccinated, so we feel we should be able to have that same information back,” he said.
Brent Moffatt said while he doesn’t personally have an opinion on the matter, he understands why people would get upset at increased government regulation.
“I get that people don’t like being directed and told what to do,” he said. “I can certainly value that opinion.”
Linda Portsmouth said while her own children are immunized, she is not comfortable with the idea of immunizations being made mandatory, or even with parents being required to provide immunization records.
“It’s your body, and to me you should be able to make that decision,” she said.
She said her own child was immunized against chicken pox when he was born, but then he ended up contracting chicken pox anyway as did several others on his hockey team – all of whom had been immunized.
While immunization levels in the province are high for many preventable illnesses, they are not always high enough. For example, the measles immunization rate in St. Albert is 92 per cent, compared to 89 per cent for the province as a whole, but short of the 98 per cent recommended to provide herd immunity in the event of an outbreak.
Superintendents of both the public and Catholic school systems in St. Albert have said their school divisions defer to what public health officials say about immunizations.
Alberta Health currently recommends children have a regular schedule of immunizations for a variety of preventable diseases. Immunizations are provided free of charge at local public health units and at many pharmacies.