Toronto ‘immunity’ ban sparks legal fight

Image copyright Bloomberg Image caption Andrew Holness promised parents vaccinations when he was elected in 2015

About 500 city workers could be out of a job over concerns that Toronto’s vaccination campaign breaches its public health guidelines.

But only a handful face suspension over an argument that parents have the right to refuse inoculations for children in their care.

Mayor John Tory says only a “tiny minority” of the city’s municipal employees have done anything wrong.

Some of those involved in the debate about vaccinations are taking their cases to court.

Health emergency

Toronto’s city council in April passed a motion calling for the vaccination mandate to be implemented by the end of August or risk sparking a public health emergency.

It had imposed similar deadlines for parents of children under the age of six last year. The new deadline was in response to rising numbers of cases of measles across the province, sparking a mandatory vaccination bill.

Mr Tory hopes to ensure no further children are vulnerable to the disease, while demanding some of the city’s public employees be dismissed.

But lawyers for former employees have challenged the ban, saying the city has trampled on the due process.

A judge is expected to rule on their complaint as early as Monday.

“We are going to continue to fight until everyone who has the right to work in Toronto is given fair and equal treatment,” said the bill’s author, Councillor Brian Pincott.

Mr Tory said he was confident his employees would continue to keep order in the city as they fight for their job.

Public understanding

Data shows 70% of Toronto children are already vaccinated. Canada’s national vaccination survey found 73% are up to date on vaccines.

The case is the latest in a series of government interventions in a debate that has found support on some levels in the global health community.

In May, President Donald Trump, who is against vaccinations, insisted states should not provide money for Planned Parenthood, which offers a range of free services including vaccines to women in need.

“Why are we paying for something that’s not done?” he said in a speech to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, where he called for citizens to combat a “conspiracy” with Democrats that the vaccine not be done.

The arguments against vaccines are frequently against the value of life, long-term risks to health and access to health care.

But government interference is controversial – the public is divided over the costs and benefits of the vaccination campaign.

Around eight-in-ten Canadians trust health care providers, according to a survey conducted by the Public Policy Forum, but 70% believe it is inappropriate for federal ministers to interfere in provincial healthcare policies.

There is also a public perception that vaccinations are not vital to public health, that the risk of diseases, in general, is lessened by vaccination, and that some parents choose not to have their children immunised because they disagree with the use of vaccines.

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