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Toronto Public Health campaign lets kids have their say about vaccines
Oct. 8, 2019
Francine Kopun

Toronto Public Health announced Monday it is launching an awareness campaign encouraging families to get their children immunized.

The campaign, which will include ads in bus shelters, in Yonge-Dundas Square and on social media, focuses on what children have to say about vaccinations.

“Vaccine are like a shield that keeps us healthy and strong,” reads one, featuring a young boy with his sleeve rolled up.

The campaign is being launched as part of Toronto Public Health’s effort to combat so-called vaccine hesitancy -- the growing number of people who are reluctant or who refuse to allow their children to be vaccinated, which Toronto’s medical officer of health, Eileen de Villa, says is on the rise.

In Canada, an estimated 20 per cent of parents are vaccine-hesitant, according to research.

De Villa said that Toronto has seen the number of vaccine exemptions -- granted for philosophical and religious reasons -- rise from 0.8 per cent in 2016 to 1.7 per cent currently.

Both de Villa, and Councillor Joe Cressy (Ward 10 Spadina--Fort York) said that although it features children, the campaign is about more than getting children to ask their parents -- perhaps parents who may not support vaccines -- to talk about the issue.

“We want everybody talking to everybody,” said Cressy.

According to a statement from public health, vaccines have saved more lives than any other health care intervention in history.

De Villa said the children in the ads were not coached. They were asked for their thoughts on vaccines.

She said preventable diseases still occur in Toronto due to vaccine hesitancy.

The campaign is part of a comprehensive strategy to promote vaccines and respond to vaccine hesitancy in Toronto.

In September Toronto’s board of health voted to ask the province to consider preventing parents from exempting their children from vaccines on philosophical or religious grounds.

The meeting was attended by hundreds of people who said they or their children had fallen ill as a result of a vaccine and by those who argued that removing the exemption would be a violation of their charter rights.