A recent measles outbreak in Toronto is raising questions about the rules for student exemptions, how doctors deal with unvaccinated patients and how easy it is to catch measles. The Toronto Star asked the experts and compiled their answers.
Are Ontario doctors allowed to refuse to treat patients because they are not vaccinated?
It depends. According to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO), physicians cannot terminate a patient “for choosing not to follow the physician’s treatment advice.” However, under the CPSO’s policy, physicians may end a patient relationship in situations in which there is “A conflict of interest that compromises a physician’s ability to put the interests of his/her patients first.” The CPSO says it would evaluate any complaints from patients on a case-by-case basis, and is not aware of comparable cases.
Is there any truth to claims the measles vaccine can cause autism?
“There is absolutely no evidence at all,” says Dr. Natasha Crowcroft, chief of infectious disease with Public Health Ontario. Actress Jenny McCarthy made headlines when she linked vaccines to causing autism, prompting many in the medical community to decry her claims. Andrew Wakefield, the author of the 1998 report that erroneously linked MMR vaccinations to autism, has since had his licence stripped.
How close do I have to be to an infected person to catch measles?
You don’t even have to be in the same room. Up to two hours after an infected person leaves a room, an unvaccinated person breathing its air could still catch measles. Coughing, sneezing and even talking can pass on the virus through droplets in the air.
Can I get the vaccine without having a (gulp) needle?
For now, it’s needle only, but the World Health Organization is experimenting with a vaccine that can be inhaled.
What schools in Toronto have particularly high MMR exemption rates?
Alpha Alternative Junior School (TDSB): 39 percent, or 31 students
The Grove Community School (TDSB): 37 percent, or 31 students
Da Vinci School (TDSB): 28 percent, or 12 students
Statistics for elementary schools are from 2011-2012 and secondary schools from 2012-2013.
What’s the rule for students regarding measles vaccines in Ontario?
Under Ontario’s Immunization of School Pupils Act, students are required to provide vaccination records to attend school. Without proof of vaccination, they can be suspended from school unless they submit an exemption form.
How do I get exempted?
Parents can complete a Statement of Conscience or Religious Belief exemption form, have it signed by a commissioner of oaths and submit it to the school or Toronto Public Health. Parents do not have to explain why they are requesting the exemption. For a Statement of Medical Exemption form, parents need to have the form signed by a medical doctor, a nurse or a nurse practitioner.
How many students seek exemptions?
In 2012/2013, approximately 5,939 Toronto students — 1.6 percent — had exemptions to the MMR vaccine.
How many students in Toronto school boards are vaccinated?
Some 91 percent or higher. Students who are not recorded as vaccinated or exempt by Toronto Public Health have either not yet been assessed or are no longer up-to-date — meaning they may have recently received the needed second dose of the vaccine but have not updated public health records.
What’s the point of requiring vaccinations for school-age children if anyone can get an exemption?
“Some people call the Immunization of School Pupils Act ‘mandatory choice’ because it does not force you to get the vaccine. Right now the religious (and) philosophical exemptions are not high, but if they do start to increase, it is worth looking at the legislation again,” said Toronto public health spokesperson Lenore Bromley.