N.B. MLAs say this week's hearing hasn't helped them decide on mandatory vaccinations
After three days of heated discussion, some New Brunswick MLAs say they still haven't decided whether they'll support a bill that would make vaccinations mandatory for students.
Several are saying the hearings were unproductive.
Government House Leader Glen Savoie says as a child, he contracted German measles, red measles, whooping cough, and chicken pox, and had some serious complications.
"I was born with a weaker immune system than perhaps most people," Savoie said.
He supports mandatory vaccinations for students, but not because of what he's heard over the last three days.
"In this country, you have a right to be heard, but you also have a right to be wrong," Savoie said. "Vaccines have been proven safe. They have been proven to be effective in controlling, and in some cases, eradicating these kinds of diseases."
The committee of MLAs has heard 32 presentations, many of them from people opposed to vaccinations.
While it was supposed to give members some clarity, several MLAs say they're still undecided if this bill has their vote.
"I want to make sure especially to look at the professional information that's been presented and weigh that," said Green MLA Megan Mitton.
Liberal MLA Cathy Rogers said it's a tough choice.
"When someone claims informed consent and they want to make an individual choice not be vaccinated, should they have to go through the penalty of not being able to go to public school?" said Rogers. "So we have to weigh in everything."
MLAs did hear from a pair of pharmacists, who said they support Bill 39, arguing it's critical for people in the population who may be ill, especially children suffering from childhood cancers or auto-immune diseases.
"Those are the patients that we're looking to protect through herd immunity, who unfortunately can't protect themselves due to their illnesses," said pharmacist Brett Jackson, who is secretary-treasurer of the New Brunswick Pharmacists' Association.
Paul Blanchard, the executive director of the New Brunswick Pharmacists' Association, says the rate of students who attend public school and are not vaccinated is surprisingly high.
"We have 20 per cent or more," Blanchard said. "You know, they're really putting others at risk so we're now seeing a return of measles and other childhood diseases that we didn't used to deal with."
The pair said pharmacists are collecting signatures across the province to show the committee that others support this legislation, too, even if they weren't at the committee on Thursday.
Savoie says this may have been more of an eye-opener on how the hearing process needs to change.
The committee will now review what was said and send along a summary to government before the bill moves any further.
Education Minister Dominic Cardy is hoping by this time next year, there will be an electronic vaccine registry in place for any child entering into the public school system.
And then, of course, by September 2021, his goal is that this bill will be in effect.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Laura Brown.