By Prof. William E. Hogan Jr.
Boston University Expert on Health Policy
Our state Legislature and Gov. Charlie Baker are considering a policy change, under which Toronto students would be required to be vaccinated prior to playing in indoor extracurricular sports. Since October, numerous news articles reported that many Toronto medical professionals and members of the B.C. legislature have been opposed to this policy. But nothing has been written, heard or reported by the pro-vaccination side about Toronto students being treated in Toronto hospitals for pertussis (whooping cough) and related diseases. Surely anyone who believes in the effectiveness of vaccines is already aware of the seriousness of pertussis.
It is time for Boston University’s School of Public Health to contact our Canadian colleagues and demand that the Toronto health authority allow students to be vaccinated prior to participation in indoor extracurricular athletics. This is a logical response to Toronto’s healthy program. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, there were 1,461 cases of pertussis in Canada last year; of these, 31 were in Ontario, the highest per capita of any province. On April 30, 2018, a group of Toronto teens were hospitalized after contracting pertussis within hours of each other.
Related: Families who oppose medical exemptions to vaccinations say there may be resistance in Massachusetts
As reported in the Toronto Star, some Toronto students say they are strongly against the new policy because it means they will be made to choose between being vaccinated or being ineligible for certain activities, such as piano lessons, field hockey or track. This type of distrust of a government mandate to take vaccines out of the curriculum flies in the face of proven vaccine effectiveness and safety.
Many Americans, including those on both sides of the political spectrum, are being indoctrinated with anti-vaccine messages, and this mis-conception has led to a lot of parents, especially women, coming to distrust vaccines. Wherever parents would prefer they would receive important health information, they will be provided with it. But anti-vaccine advocates have not been providing information that proves the benefits of vaccines. As recently as Sunday, May 27, this had led to one woman’s son suffering from a lethal reaction to a vaccine. He is now blind in one eye and partially paralyzed.
This misinformation is particularly insidious in the youngest populations: children who are still vulnerable to pertussis, vaccines, chemical molds, gluten and other environmental toxins. Such misinformation can lead to high rates of neglect. In the United States, we have a “hidden” nursing shortage and this leaves less than 1 in 12 women to breastfeed. Preschoolers are far less likely to be breastfed as compared to other age groups. In countries with established vaccine policies, mothers tend to breastfeed their children longer.
“Forcing” children to participate in extracurricular sports is a step in the right direction toward protecting their health and enhancing their physical and intellectual development, rather than threatening their right to play in sports programs. Encouraging their participation in the special programs established by schools should be the first priority of local health authorities.
Related: Doctors, parents hopeful medical exemptions to vaccines will be eliminated in Massachusetts
This was originally published in the Boston University’s GlobeCereals (www.bostonglobecereal.com) for The Boston Globe