The Langley School District has approved a policy that will keep a confidential list of students who have not been immunized.
The proposal was quickly passed without debate at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.
School board vice-chair Megan Dykeman, who chairs the committee that developed the policy, said it was a response to “questions that have arisen about vaccination as a whole.”
While there have been plenty of reports that the number of unvaccinated children in schools has grown to the point where it impairs so-called “herd immunity” (which describes when enough people in a given group are vaccinated against a certain disease, that germs can’t travel as easily from person to person and the entire community is less likely to get the disease), Dykeman said it isn’t clear what the situation in Langley is.
“(Right now) there’s no way for us to tell if that’s true or not.”
In 2016, a study by the University of B.C. found most schools within the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority don’t have immunization rates of 90 per cent, which is generally needed for herd immunity.
In the U.S., Oregon has banned unvaccinated children from attending school and state health authorities were sending written warnings to parents if their children were behind on vaccinations for whooping cough, polio, chicken pox, and measles.
Dykeman said that keeping un-immunized children from attending school was simply not an option.
“They’re going to come to school,” Dykeman said.
“We can’t have a policy on the books that we can’t enforce.”
The final wording of the policy slightly softens the language of the first-draft version, saying that the school board “requests” rather than “requires” parents and guardians provide proof of immunization records of their children upon registration in the Langley School District.
The policy directs school staff to keep a list of children who have not been immunized “in a secure file in the school office to only be accessed should there be the threat of an outbreak or a confirmed case of a communicable disease within the school community.”
During an outbreak, parents or guardians of students who have not been immunized will be allowed to “choose to keep their children home until the risk is eliminated.”
If they do, “the school will make available an educational program for the child(ren) during this temporary time.”
According to school board records, the discussion of vaccination records and whether they should be required or mandatory began in September 2015 when an article was published in the Victoria News entitled “Mandatory Vaccination Records Urged for Schools”.
The article referred to a call by the provincial health officer, who added his voice to that of the Canadian Medical Association in calling for mandatory declaration of vaccination when children enrol at school, as was done in Ontario and New Brunswick.
A report was made to the board at a closed-door meeting on Jan. 26, 2016 and the matter was referred to the policy committee.
“It is important to note that the request (for vaccination records) would not (imply) that the Board of Education requires students to be vaccinated, but rather it be simply a request for formal records of any vaccinations received,” one report on the discussions noted.
The Wikipedia entry on “vaccine controversies” notes that “vaccine controversies have occurred since almost 80 years before the terms vaccine and vaccination were introduced, and continue to this day. Despite scientific consensus that recommended vaccines are safe and effective, unsubstantiated scares regarding their safety still occur, resulting in outbreaks and deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases.”