It's 'not acceptable' that so many kids are not immunized: N.B. education minister
With the confirmed outbreak of measles in New Brunswick, Education Minister Dominic Cardy is not mincing words.
“We've built up, over the last couple of hundred years, public health systems and those have been allowed to fall into disrepair,” Cardy said. “We have got to make sure we've got accurate, up to date information and the fact that now we're caught up in multiple outbreaks of diseases that are all preventable through vaccination that are easily accessible to every single person in this province is not acceptable.”
In light of the regional outbreak of measles, Cardy says he'll use everything in his power to ensure students who can be vaccinated are.
According to the Education Act, a superintendent can refuse a student's admission to public school if they do not provide proof of immunization.
There are two exemptions to that: a medical exemption or parental objection.
It's the latter that Cardy would like to see changed.
“I don't want to help people get unjust medically justifiable vaccination exemptions for their children, because it's the wrong thing to do,” he said.
Cardy says if he can get his cabinet colleagues to agree with him - he'll work to stop allowing parental objections.
The opposition says Cardy may be going too far.
“I don't know exactly where he wants to draw the line, or how he wants to draw the line, but I think he's being a little impulsive with his language, because he hasn't looked at the legal, or the Charter implications,” said Victoria-la-Vallée MLA Chuck Chiasson.
Green Party MLA Megan Mitton, who represents the riding of Memramcook-Tantamar, says there might be another reason why vaccination rates have dropped.
“How many are not being vaccinated, because they just didn’t get vaccinated?” she asked. “There just wasn't a follow up with public health? It just didn't happen and I think that is really where the focus needs to be.”
But most in the legislature agree that more information needs to be gathered on how many students are immunized.
Health Minister Ted Flemming announced earlier this year that electronic health records are on the way so that, in the future, we'll have better information on how many children - and adults - have been vaccinated.
But, until then, concern remains.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown.