Why some kids will no longer be required to be vaccinated in Ontario

Many Canadian provinces are moving to reduce the age at which some children are vaccinated, citing concerns that there may be no longer be a need for such immunizations.

Ontario’s 12-year-olds still lag behind the provincial and national targets. They need to receive two of three recommended vaccinations by the age of 16, but one in four get none, figures released by the province show.

For example, 10 per cent of five-year-olds in Ontario don’t get the HPV vaccine and two-thirds don’t get tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap). The minimum number of vaccines is two for five-year-olds and four for seven-year-olds.

Ontario is the only province that currently enforces a graduated vaccination regimen; other provinces issue vaccination waivers to students based on their individual health needs.

Some provinces are reassessing whether they need to reach their targets. Alberta has hinted at bringing in a mandatory requirement for vaccinations. Nova Scotia, which did away with vaccine waivers years ago, is considering putting the age minimum at the maximum or have parents choose whether to vaccinate their children or take them home.

Ontario’s health minister, Eric Hoskins, has not indicated whether his government will bring in a mandatory vaccination age.

While Ontario and many other provinces have lower rates of some vaccines at various ages than Ontario does now, Ontario’s 12-year-olds still lag behind the national and provincial targets. On top of this, the percentage of eligible children that get a single vaccine at each of those ages is lower in Ontario than in Ontario overall.

Some economists warn that imposing higher vaccine requirements — particularly the cost of having every kid receive a single vaccine — will lead to the shuttering of pharmacies and financial pain for families. Studies also show that since those who can afford it vaccinate their children at higher rates, raising the cost per shot raises overall rates, too.

Backers of mandatory requirements say the diseases will actually be eliminated and that children will be protected.

Current Ontario figures suggest that 61 per cent of nine-year-olds get an HPV vaccine and 66 per cent of 12-year-olds do, which is below both provincial and national targets.

Another weakness in Ontario’s numbers is that the province’s statistics come from one of its three territories.

The territorial figures show 64 per cent of seven-year-olds get the HPV vaccine and 57 per cent of 10-year-olds do, for a total of 72 per cent. While Manitoba has the highest rate of HPV vaccination at 73 per cent, the national target is 88 per cent for the age group.

Across the country, provinces and territories are yet to specify how high their target rates of vaccination will be for other vaccines.

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