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'Better safe than sorry': Poll finds most Canadians back mandatory vaccines for kids

Last Updated Feb 21, 2019 at 11:31 am PDT

(iStock, Photo)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It’s a discussion many of us are having in Metro Vancouver, as we deal with a measles outbreak: Should vaccines be mandatory for kids?

A new poll indicates the majority of people in this country are onside with that idea.

The survey from Angus Reid explores the issue of whether kids should have to receive vaccines in order to enter the education system. Seven in 10 respondents say they are on board with that approach.

(Source: Angus Reid Institute)

We found similar support, asking people on the streets of Vancouver.

“I would rather be safe than sorry, I think,” one woman said, acknowledging her boyfriend opposes vaccines. “There are always going to be people who don’t agree on it. Personally, I think it’s probably a good idea, given there’s been outbreaks lately and it’s so contagious. It’s like secondhand smoke but far worse.”

“It sounds heavy-handed, really, but we can’t afford these diseases to proliferate like they did before. So if we have to, we have to,” another woman said.

“I don’t think that one child that’s been properly taken care of throughout their lives should be exposed to someone who has measles,” a man told NEWS 1130. “The poor kid doesn’t know he has it, and it spreads that way.”

RELATED: Vancouver measles outbreak sending unvaccinated youth to doctors for shots

According to the poll, nine in 10 Canadians (92%) say vaccinations are effective at protecting the community from diseases. Eight in 10 (83%)say they would vaccinate their kids without reservation.

(Source: Angus Reid Institute)

Still, one in five parents with children younger than 12 believes the government shouldn’t be making that call for them.

“That’s wrong,” one man argued, about the idea of mandatory vaccines. “I believe in freedom. And if that’s your choice, that’s it. Why can’t people have freedom of choice?”

(Source: Angus Reid Institute)

A petition asking for vaccines to be mandatory for children going to public schools in B.C. has surpassed 30,000 signatures. However, the B.C. government says that’s not an option.

Education minister Rob Fleming says it’s not possible for vaccinations to be mandatory, but offering vaccines at schools could help increase immunization rates.

RELATED: B.C.’s education minister says mandatory vaccines not an option

Eight cases of the measles were confirmed in the Vancouver Health Authority last week. The first person who tested positive acquired the infection outside of North America.

A ninth, unrelated case was also confirmed the week before.

Measles causes high fever, coughing, sneezing, and a widespread painful rash. The infection can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis and can be fatal.

A quarter of poll respondents (26%) say they are concerned about the risk of side effects for those being vaccinated.

The poll also found about three in 10 people (29%) believe the science on vaccinations isn’t clear.

All major health organizations locally and worldwide endorse the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

(Source: Angus Reid Institute)

In B.C., minors deemed capable can make decisions about their own health.

The BC Centre for Disease Control says the province has a plentiful supply of vaccines, should parents wish to vaccinate their children or if adults are uncertain of their vaccination history.

Clinics that offer vaccinations can be found on the Immunize BC website.

 – With files from Lasia Kretzel, Liza Yuzda, Lauren Boothby