A group of people described as anti-vaxxers descended on parents at Webster’s Corners elementary as they were arriving with their children on Monday morning.
A parent of three students, along with the students’ grandparents complained to The News that a group of about 20 people were around the school, handing out information sheets about the HPV vaccine to parents who were dropping off their children. They stayed in the area from about 8-8:40 a.m.
Police were called to deal with them, but none of the vaccine protesters were arrested or ticketed, said Juliuss Hoffmann, one of the event organizers.
Hoffmann said there was a concern by police about the group impeding traffic in the school zone, but he defended the group’s right to speak with parents about their concerns.
A parent told The News he was irritated because the intersection at 256th Street and Dewdney Trunk Road is busy, and parents already must be cautious about traffic as the school day starts.
“These folks were ‘pouncing’ on families while we were unloading the cars, and trying to talk to us while our main concern was getting the children into the school grounds safely,” he said.
“Aside from the extra traffic and distractions, none of these people were wearing masks, talking to many people face-to-face and giving handouts – I took mine out of reflex before I read what it was.”
They had a handout with the header: “Gardasil (Human papilloma virus) Vaccine Alert”
“We at Action 4 Canada are here today to provide you information regarding today’s vaccination campaign at your elementary school,” it begins.
There are negative statements about the vaccine and the company that manufactures it, and then the handout ends with an invitation for people to “stop by Juliuss barn” with an address on 256th Street on the same day.
Action 4 Canada is a group that has brought legal action against the B.C. and federal governments over COVID-19 measures which it says infringe on human rights and have exceeded their authority.
The province said it will be creating “bubble zone” legislation to keep protesters away from schools and hospitals during the present fall sitting of the B.C. legislature.
Hoffmann, who was a candidate for the People’s Party of Canada during the federal election, confirmed he was part of the group that attended the school, and defended them being there.
He said there is much concern about vaccine products, and Action 4 Canada wanted parents to have some information, before they allowed their children to get the HPV vaccination on Tuesday.
“We try and open people’s eyes to the issues,” he said.
“Their issue was we were obstructing traffic. We weren’t,” he said. “There were definitely varied responses to us being there.”
He described some of the reaction as “rude” and “aggressive.”
School board chairperson Korleen Carreras said parents with questions should have them answered by those with medical training.
“Although we have had a few protests in the district in the past, I don’t believe we have seen protests here specific to routine immunizations, which public health has facilitated in our schools for many years,” said Carreras. “If families have questions about the vaccines, we encourage them to speak to their family doctor or public health.
“It is my understanding that the principal did ask the protesters to move off school property and not block access to the school, and that they ultimately did comply while continuing to hand out their flyers,” she added.
“We respect and understand that in a democratic society people have the right to protest. At the same time, however, it is crucial that our students are able to access their schools freely and safely. That is a key priority for us.”
Hoffmann said one woman from the school did come to his property to get more information, and a woman from Action 4 Canada spoke with her.
“That’s the point – to get a conversation going,” he said.
According to Fraser Health, HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, and three out of four sexually active people will get an HPV infection at some point. Some types cause cancers of the cervix and sex organs. Every year, 6,000 women in B.C. will develop high risk pre-cancerous changes to the cervix, it says. Fraser Health gives the vaccine to Grade 6 students. For more information see fraserhealth.ca
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