Nova Scotia

Scrutiny needed before making vaccines mandatory: N.S. health minister

It’s unlikely a Progressive Conservative bill that would make vaccinations mandatory for public school children in Nova Scotia will pass during the fall session of the legislature, if it passes at all.

Proposed Tory amendment would require public school children to prove they've been vaccinated

A proposed amendment by the Tories would require all children entering the public school system to produce proof of being vaccinated or a medical exemption. (Robert Short/CBC)

It's unlikely a Progressive Conservative bill that would make vaccinations mandatory for public school children in Nova Scotia will pass during the fall session of the legislature, if it passes at all.

Tory Leader Tim Houston tabled an amendment to the Health Protection Act on Tuesday, which would require all children entering the public school system to have proof of being vaccinated or produce a medical exemption.

Houston said the aim is to boost the province's vaccination rates, which are lower than the national average, while also guarding against preventable disease outbreaks such as the one that happened recently in New Brunswick with measles.

On Wednesday, Health Minister Randy Delorey said there is consensus among MLAs about the important role vaccines play in keeping people safe and healthy and a desire to increase the rate of people getting them.

But he's less certain the proposed amendment is the way to achieve that goal.

Public health focused on education

"The information that I have so far really highlights and stresses that there is mixed evidence as to the efficacy of mandatory vaccination," said Delorey in an interview at Province House.

"I think I have more work to do to come to a conclusion on that point."

The province's vaccination rate is 71.7 per cent, lower than the national average of 85.7 per cent.

Delorey said even before the Tories tabled their amendment, talks were happening within his department and with public health officials about ways to increase the rate and strengthen Nova Scotia's immunization programs.

The minister said more time would be required before any changes could be made to the system.

He said public health officials are focused on improved tracking of vaccination rates as well as on educating the public in a proactive way about the importance of being immunized.

"We're still looking at the research around mandatory (vaccinations) in that regard," he said.

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