A year ago or so, Katie Clunn tried to get the provincial government to make it compulsory – get your kids immunized or they don’t go to school.
She collected a petition and sent it to the health ministry, but nothing came of it.
Now she’s at it again, this time staying local with a change.org petition calling for the same. Once the petition hits 100 names, it automatically will be sent to Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school board chairman Mike Murray.
“It bothers me a lot,” says Clunn, who has two kids, three and six years old.
“If you’re really that scared of vaccines, you should have home-schooled your child.”
Clunn says many parents seem to think that it’s not their business if others don’t want to get their kids immunized.
But she says fewer immunized kids means higher risks to others, even those who have had their shots.
“There’s only so much your body can fight off.”
Clunn knows it’s not up to the school district to make rules about immunization, but says it’s just a way of starting the initiative.
“Everyone keeps trying to blame other people.”
For now, she’ll send it in, and expects to hear from the school district about where next to send the petition.
She points out that when parents have kids with allergies, such as to peanut butter, others are asked not to send that to school with them. She supports that.
“However, why can your kid bring measles to my kid’s class when one of his classmates may be going through chemo … or asthma, now they’ve got whooping cough and now they’re going to die because their asthma acts up from of it.
“If you’re going to go into public schools, you should be interested in public safety.”
Clunn’s petition asks that the enrolment policy be changed “to include mandatory vaccinations – except with medical exemption.”
She says Ontario now follows such a policy.
As of last year, Ontario required immunization in order for kids to attend school.
“Children need to have proof of immunization against meningococcal disease, whooping cough and chickenpox to attend school,” says the Ontario health ministry’s website.
“This is in addition to existing requirements for proof of immunization against many other diseases. The number of shots required for tetanus, diphtheria, polio and mumps has also been updated.
“Children who are not fully immunized, may not be allowed to attend school.”
But according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, immunization isn’t compulsory.
It says that some provinces require parents to sign a form indicating if they want their child immunized or not. Those against immunization are asked to keep their kids home during disease outbreaks.
Clunn says feelings can get heated over the issue from parents objecting to being told to vaccinate their children.
People can also get a little information and make rash decisions on that against getting their kid immunized.
“Google is kind of a fantastic/awful experience, all at once.”
According to Immunize B.C., the benefits of protection from serious, possibly fatal disease, are far outweighed by the minor risks or rare reactions.
And the B.C. Centre for Disease Control says there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
“It’s just a passionate hobby right now where I get in trouble … for telling people the truth. I’m not one to sit back and say, ‘Oh, that’s your choice’ … when it is actually affecting other people.”
She adds that people today haven’t seen the results of not getting vaccinated.
“Our generation hasn’t seen these diseases, so as far as they’re concerned, measles is a rash, whooping cough is a bad cough. They haven’t seen their friends’ kids die from them. They’re not scared of them.”
Fraser Health says only 60 per cent of children in Maple Ridge, up to age seven, are up to date with their vaccines. But that could mean kids have had one of the two shots required for a disease.
Fraser Health spokesperson Tasleem Juma said rates are often under reported, by up to 10 per cent, because children can be immunized outside of the area.
When it comes to particular diseases, the 2014 immunization rate for measles is 87 per cent in Maple Ridge, two per cent above the rate for the Fraser North region.
When it comes to chicken pox, 90 per cent of kids in Maple Ridge have been immunized. For rubella, the rate is 93 per cent and for mumps, 87 per cent. For meningitis, the rate is almost 90 per cent. Each disease has its own threshold, at which herd immunity is achieved.
Clunn didn’t expect the rates to have changed much since then.
School board chair Mike Murray said it is a provincial issue and says he hasn’t heard from parents concerned about immunization.
“I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t be able to exclude a child if they weren’t vaccinated.
“It’s a health issue and we’d certainly take whatever direction Fraser Health provides us.”