Nova Scotia

Tories propose mandatory vaccinations for N.S. public school children

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston tabled amendments to the Health Protection Act on Tuesday that would require children entering the public system to have proof they've been vaccinated, or a medical exemption.

Amendments to Health Protection Act would allow for medical exemptions

PC Leader Tim Houston says mandatory vaccinations would play an important role in keeping children safe in school. (CBC)

The Progressive Conservatives are taking a hard line on vaccinations in Nova Scotia's public school system.

The party's leader, Tim Houston, tabled amendments to the Health Protection Act on Tuesday that would require children entering the public system to have proof they've been vaccinated, or a medical exemption.

"We should be, as a society, accepting that people should be vaccinated when they go to school," Houston told reporters at Province House in Halifax.

The move follows similar legislation the New Brunswick government introduced this year that if passed would require students be vaccinated, but would allow exemptions for medical reasons. Ontario has a similar bill, but also allows for ideological exemptions. Houston's amendment does not include an ideological exemption.

Houston said the idea behind the amendments is to get ahead of problems like what happened in Saint John recently with a measles outbreak.

"We don't have to wait for some negative outbreak to react," he said.

Ensuring vaccination rates are as high as possible is particularly important because there are some people who rely on so-called herd immunity to stay safe because they are medically unable to be vaccinated.

"The science is there," said Houston. "We have the ability to prevent a lot of these diseases and we should use it."

Details would be worked out

According to information from the Tories, Nova Scotia's vaccination rate of 71.7 per cent is below the national average of 85.7 per cent.

Houston said the options of how families would prove vaccination could be worked out through regulations, whether it be a note from a doctor or a certificate received at the time a child is vaccinated.

"For today, what I want the legislature to focus on is the need that it be done," he said.

In talking with members of the New Brunswick government, Houston said he heard people generally accepted that it's a good thing, although there is some organized opposition that would likely show up to speak against the move.

"Basically, their message to me and to our caucus is it's the right thing to do and stand up for it and do it."

About the Author

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca

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