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CMA delegates urge action on declining vaccination rates

Physician concern about declining immunization rates in Canada was evident Aug. 26 during the CMA’s annual meeting in Halifax. By day’s end delegates had considered nine motions, many of which focused on efforts to educate parents who hesitate to pursue vaccination for their children.

Members voted by a near-unanimous margin (97%) to ask that governments across the country authorize schools to require a declaration of students’ immunization status. If results indicate that a student has not been immunized, there would then be “a conversation” between public health officials and parents.

Dr. Yun Jen of Quebec, who moved the motion, said the goal is not to make immunization compulsory but to provide an opportunity “to deliver information and to sensitize” parents on the importance of vaccination programs.

“Parents whose children are not vaccinated may be vaccination-hesitant,” added CMA Past President Chris Simpson, the motion’s seconder. “This would provide an opportunity to understand why they are hesitant.”

Delegates rejected a call for a national compensation program for people who experienced “debilitating” injury following vaccination. Medical student Denis Yahiaoui, mover of the motion, said that in rare cases immunization results in serious damage to patients. “It is the duty of society to help if someone is seriously affected [by vaccination],” he said.

However, several delegates warned that the motion could be used by those who oppose vaccination as a “tacit admission” that immunization programs are dangerous. The motion was defeated by a two-thirds margin (70%).

Delegates voted unanimously to have the CMA provide information and tools to physicians to help promote “the medical profession’s critical role in supporting immunization.” The CMA’s new president, Dr. Cindy Forbes, said information provided to parents by physicians can be used to counter “facts” gathered from websites and provided by friends.

There was also a unanimous vote on a motion calling for immunization registries that can feed information from electronic medical records directly to health care providers.

Another motion that passed urges the federal government to develop a national plan to deal with “vaccine hesitancy”.

General Council approved four additional immunization-related motions without debate. These ‘consent’ motions dealt with topics that included urging the federal government to “accelerate the development and implementation of a national immunization registry.”

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