P.E.I. daycare wants to make vaccinations mandatory
'I think the more people vaccinated, the better our health is going to be'
While P.E.I.'s Department of Education says it has no plans to make vaccinations mandatory for students, an Island daycare wants to make vaccines a requirement for children to attend.
Denise Villard has worked at Stepping Stones Early Years Centre in Cornwall, P.E.I., for the past 18 years. The daycare looks after about 50 children, some who are infants younger than six months.
"I'd like to have a record showing that each child is vaccinated, for certain," she said.
She said recent measles outbreaks in other parts of the country have motivated her to re-evaluate the daycare's vaccine policy.
Villard isn't alone — two other early years centres said they also want to make vaccines mandatory.
I would rather be safe, protect the children. Having that little bit of safety net would be nice.— Denise Villard, Stepping Stones Early Years Centre
She said she has plans to reach out to the Early Childhood Development Association to see if she can legally demand that children in her daycare be vaccinated.
Though the daycare is currently unable to implement a strict vaccination policy, Villard said, the daycare staff speak with parents about the importance of vaccinating their children regularly.
Immunity is key
The Department of Education, which regulates schools and early years centres, says mandatory vaccination is not being considered because 95.3 per cent of Grade 1 students had received the measles vaccine for the 2017-18 school year without it being a requirement.
Villard said herd immunity is key in protecting children from contracting illnesses like measles.
"I think the more people vaccinated, the better our health is going to be," Villard said. "I would rather be safe, protect the children. Having that little bit of safety net would be nice."
The Public Schools Branch said that in the event of an outbreak, P.E.I.'s chief public health officer can restrict access to public spaces — but at this point vaccines can only be encouraged.
Villard said she will be reaching out to the early childhood association in the coming weeks and wants to make a request to put in a mandatory policy. She said her hope is to have a policy in place over the next few months.
"Especially now that it's hitting closer to home, now that it's hitting New Brunswick, like the Maritimes — it can be easily us next," Villard said.
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With files from Laura Meader