N.B. education minister's comments on vaccination spark debate
There were no new cases of measles to report in New Brunswick on Thursday, but there were strong differences of opinion about how to best make sure there's not another outbreak like the one underway in the Saint John area.
It started with comments made by Education Minister Dominic Cardy on CTV News on Wednesday night.
In an interview with CTV Atlantic anchor Steve Murphy, Cardy was blunt and clear.
“If people really have an objection to vaccines, they can homeschool their children,” Cardy said. “But we don't allow our children to come into our school carrying guns and we shouldn't allow coming in with fatal diseases that could hurt other people especially the most vulnerable among the school population.”
Cardy said, once the measles outbreak is over, his attention will turn to ensuring all students who attend public school are vaccinated and said if he has his way, only medical exemptions will be allowed.
His goal is have that rule put in place before September.
Thursday, in responding to criticism about those remarks, he backed up his comments on social media, saying in part:
“I've listened and read masses of antivaxx material. It's simply false,” and “I’m the minister. It is my job. Vaccinate your kids.”
He’s not alone.
“If the parents are ambivalent about vaccinations for their child and they feel their home environment is the safest space for them, bacteria-free environment, oh yeah, school them at home,” said Jane Stewart.
Kelvin Perry said if a number of cases occur at a school, it should be compulsory that all children and staff have a booster.
“If the parents or children refuse to have it, I would say they must stay at home until the outbreak is over,” Perry said.
That sentiment was also echoed on social media.
“I am not allowed to get the measles vaccine because of my immune system being suppressed after the medication,” Brittany Fraser said on Facebook. “The people around me need to be vaccinated to protect not only me, but others that medically can’t protect themselves!!”
Inside the house -- People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin said: “I think it's important for the province to make sure that again, students are vaccinated, and if they choose not to, like the minister of health said - home school them.”
Green Party Leader David Coon says more needs to be done to make it easier for parents to get those vaccinations.
“I am concerned that this is edging on the level of blaming parents who may have missed some booster shots for their children just because life is busy,” Coon said. “The system needs to be organized in a way to make it as easy as possible for parents to ensure their children are vaccinated.”
In Nova Scotia, there are no plans to make vaccinations mandatory.
“I perceive a potential risk in mandating it and not allowing kids in school without them,” said Nova Scotia Education Minister Zach Churchill. “It might incentivize inaccurate information being provided to the department on vaccination.”
But Cardy is full-steam-ahead .
His job, he says, is to keep students safe, and that's what he's doing.
Cardy has said he's working on trying to get an idea of just how many students and teachers are not vaccinated and he's requested that information from each school district.
In Nova Scotia, the department of health says under its current system, it is unable to estimate how many people have had their vaccine.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown.