California mandates vaccines for students, could Canada follow?

EDMONTON (CityNews) – Whether it’s workplaces, dining out or travelling, vaccine mandates are fast becoming the rule rather than the exception. But what about for students?

California last week announced school children will need to be vaccinated. But could Canada follow suit?

“The fact that these laws do exist in a couple of provinces does at least create some sort of precedent for moving in this direction,” said Lorian Hardcastle, a health law expert at the University of Calgary.

Ontario and New Brunswick have mandated student vaccines for measles and other childhood illnesses since 1982. Manitoba also requires a measles shot to attend class.

These mandates were all led to a steady uptick in vaccine rates.

In all three provinces, parents can still opt-out for medical, religious and philosophical reasons.

“They made it more inconvenient to claim that opt-out, instead of narrowing it. For example, you must attend an education session on vaccines to claim that opt-out,” explained Hardcastle.

While the COVID-19 vaccine could be similarly legislated for kids, such a move could prompt legal challenges.

“School is such an essential service for children that they would have at least have an argument to make that making attending school contingent on getting the COVID vaccine limits their charter rights,” explained Hardcastle.

Some school boards have taken the lead in mandating vaccines for their staff. And there’s a possibility they could do the same for students.

“There’s nothing that jumps out for it being illegal. I just don’t think any school would go there without the backing of the province. They risk litigation, push back from parents, and that’s a large move.”

Vaccine mandates have received a failing grade from some adults, but vaccine compulsion for kids could harden opposition even further.

“Which then could lead some people to dig their heels in more and fuel to the fire for those who oppose vaccines,” added Hardcastle.

And that’s perhaps why, unlike California, no Canadian province has yet moved to mandate student vaccines, hoping that education ultimately wins out.

“I just don’t know if it’s a good idea to mandate vaccines in school instead of doing everything possible to encourage children to become vaccinated.”


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