Image copyright SWNS Image caption Doctors in Toronto have taken to holding up posters reminding parents of the importance of vaccinations
Medical teams in Canada’s largest city have stepped up vaccinations in a bid to prevent outbreaks of dangerous diseases after the state refused to make a toddler’s vaccination record public.
Ontario stopped vaccinating children at age two – since the introduction of the school year in September.
But government papers suggest it was illegal to list a child’s immunisation status.
Doctors fear a lack of health education and cost for families will be worsened by the decision.
On Thursday night, Toronto’s medical officers of health held a news conference to urge the government to reconsider its policy.
Following the statement, immunisation rates doubled in some cases across the city and the region.
Public health officials say they have held seven surgeries on Thursday alone to vaccinate families, and at least 40 have taken place across the city.
Dr. Matthew Burrows told journalists the lack of a mandatory vaccine policy “makes public health work harder.
“It’s the information we provide that is responsible for making sure that we protect public health.”
Dr. Burrows, a leading medical officer, said vaccinations were imperative in preventing epidemics.
“In addition to the deaths of individual children, we’re losing tens of thousands of lives every year,” he said.
‘No way we can afford the cost’
Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University told reporters that while the vaccine was a necessity, the “medical and social costs are really quite high”.
“In addition to diseases that we otherwise would be dealing with like pertussis, whooping cough, measles, whooping cough is very, very contagious in little kids,” he said.
Another top expert, Dr Sherry Pagoto, a professor at Brown University, told reporters, “We can’t afford for there to be outbreaks of any kind”.
Image copyright Reuters Image caption Dr William Schaffner warned that this lack of a mandatory policy means public health work “really is harder”
Parents in Toronto have been left in the dark about the controversy, and it is likely to have an impact in Canada’s biggest city where the majority of schools are considered to be affected.
Officials hope that media awareness of the policy will lead to a big rise in vaccinations.
“I think it is going to be one of those issues that will become more of a story,” said Dr Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada.
“In the case of Toronto, the only data we have is from the press, and the government has turned a blind eye.”
Dr. Schaffner said that, while the fact that hospitals had been notified about potentially harmful diseases was an excellent idea, he was concerned about the lack of scientific evidence to back up the decision.
“We don’t yet know what if any effect this will have on individuals. We don’t yet know if the adults who didn’t get the vaccine will catch any of these diseases that we used to have,” he said.
However, Ms Pagoto noted that vaccines have proved effective.
“Certainly, in the US, it’s safe, it’s incredibly effective. No one is complaining about these vaccines.”
Dr Schaffner agreed. “Vaccines are a wonder drug,” he said.
“As far as I know, there is no evidence that immunisation in any way adversely affects one’s longevity or health status.”