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Judicial appeals on vaccination can create false idea that science itself is up for debate – The Globe and Mail



The spread of misinformation on the safety of vaccines has some parents asking the courts to be the final arbiter over whether their children should be immunized. But experts say using the legal system in this way could create the false impression that science can be up for debate.

In Salmon Arm, B.C., a judge has ruled that, despite the objections of their mother, two children must be vaccinated according to the province’s immunization schedule. The ruling, which became public this week, also granted the children’s father full responsibility for decisions regarding their medical and dental treatment.

Other parents in recent years have also have taken vaccination disputes to court. Last year, an Ontario arbitrator ruled in favour of a mother who refused to vaccinate her two children. The mother brought a well-known anti-vaccination advocate to testify. The father’s appeal of the decision will be heard later this year.

When judges hear a vaccination-related case, they are often asked to weigh legitimate scientific evidence against testimony from vaccination opponents who are skilled at making their arguments sound credible.

Justice Adèle Kent, chief judicial officer of the National Judicial Institute, which provides education and training for judges across Canada, said cases involving medicine and science are often challenging. Judges play a gatekeeper role, meaning they must decide when scientific evidence is valid, and when it is not. Those decisions aren’t always easy, especially as the science is complex and some witnesses who oppose vaccines can be very persuasive about their medical credibility.

“That’s why judges have to be so careful,” Justice Kent said. “The consequences are so significant. They’re life-altering.”

The National Judicial Institute has been doing more training to help judges navigate the increasingly complicated issues involving medicine and science, she said. The institute has also created a 220-page manual to help judges evaluate the validity of scientific and medical evidence being presented in court. The manual includes a detailed guide to understanding scientific evidence, and how to tell whether an expert witness may be biased, such as testifying frequently on the same position.

Louise Mimnagh, a family lawyer in London, Ont., said she has been involved in two vaccination cases. They were settled before they reached a trial, as most are, she said. But Ms. Mimnagh said that because the Canadian judicial system requires judges to evaluate and weigh evidence from a variety of experts, she believes it’s unlikely purveyors of pseudoscience would be taken seriously.

“There’s a lot of safeguards that have been developed in Canadian law to prevent shopping around for someone who’s going to say what you like.”

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Yet, one of the problems with using the legal system this way is that it could give the false impression the debate over vaccines is legitimate, said Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist at Toronto General Hospital. “We already have overwhelming answers to those questions,” Dr. Bogoch said.

Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in health law and policy at the University of Alberta, said he’s also concerned about using the courts to make decisions in vaccination disputes. “It can create an impression of false balance, that there’s two equal sides,” he said.

The anti-vaccination movement promotes many falsehoods about vaccines that cause people to question their safety, such as the debunked ideas they are linked to autism or have a high risk of serious side effects.

One way to keep vaccine disputes out of court is to focus on better education and stopping misinformation from spreading, Dr. Bogoch said. The medical community, governments, communication experts and other stakeholders must do more to combat the rise of anti-vaccination sentiments and misinformation about health, which can be disseminated quickly on social media, he said.

While organizations such as the Public Health Agency of Canada have started campaigns aimed at dispelling myths, experts say much more is needed to counter false information, including better oversight of regulated health professionals who profit by promoting that misinformation.

In the recent B.C. court case, Justice Stella Frame noted in her ruling that the mother said she became “uncomfortable” with vaccines after speaking to a naturopath ABOUT the risk of side effects. The naturopath offered to conduct tests to determine whether her children would be at risk, but the mother couldn’t afford them. The children’s father asked the court to order the children to be vaccinated.

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The naturopath, Chris Spooner, said in an e-mail that he wasn’t at the court proceeding and can’t comment on it. But he added that he is pro-vaccination and adheres to all college policies on issues of immunization.

In a statement posted online, the College of Naturopathic Physicians of B.C. said naturopaths are not allowed to share anti-vaccination information with patients, and that anyone doing so will be investigated. The college did not respond to a request for comment.

Justice Frame’s ruling relied heavily on cases that went in favour of the parent that wanted to immunize their children. She also highlighted the mother’s attempts to use testimony from Toni Bark, an anti-vaccination advocate, writing that Dr. Bark’s views read like “a conspiracy theory.”

The case arose because of new immunization reporting requirements in B.C. Under the new rules, unvaccinated children can be kept home from school during outbreaks, a situation the father wanted to avoid. A letter from the provincial health authority stated that the father would need to get a letter of consent from the mother to have the children vaccinated, or obtain a court order.

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Tougher COVID-19 measures in Sudbury/Manitoulin districts – My Eespanola Now



The Medical Officer of Health for Public Health Sudbury & Districts is reinstating work-from-home requirements.

Dr Penny Sutcliffe also says strong recommendations for COVID-19 protections are being issued to area schools, businesses, and organizations and stricter measures for the follow-up of contacts of cases of COVID-19 are being enacted.

Public Health is reissuing its call to everyone to continue to limit outings, work from home, get vaccinated, wear a mask and keep two metres distance from those outside your household.

They say continued high COVID19 rates mean that the Public Health Sudbury & Districts area is among the top three most affected jurisdictions in Ontario.

As of Friday, the agency had 288 active cases with Health Sciences North reporting 38 admitted patients with seven in intensive care.

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First children's vaccination clinic in Chatham fully booked –



First children’s vaccination clinic in Chatham fully booked

10-year-old Lucy Gillette from Chatham was the first to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at the Bradley Centre Clinic in Chatham on Saturday, November 27, 2021. (Photo courtesy of CKPHU)

Lucy Gillette, age 10, Chatham

Hundreds of Band-Aids were plastered onto the little arms of kids in Chatham-Kent who rolled up their sleeves for their first COVID-19 vaccine.

Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit (CKPHU) says 550 doses were administered to children aged five to 11 on Saturday for the first day of the municipality’s pediatric vaccination campaign.

“Things went really well and there has been a lot of excitement,” said Jeff Moco with Chatham-Kent Public Health Communications. “People seem to be excited to start this next phase of the vaccination campaign.”

Appointments for Pfizer-BioNTech’s pediatric vaccine at the Bradley Centre in Chatham opened on Tuesday, November 23.

The clinic has been transformed into a youth-friendly vaccination clinic with a “Super-Kid” theme that includes bright colours, balloons, and costumes.

“It has a different vibe, we have the balloons and the superhero theme,” said Moco. “It’s a lot of fun and lighthearted.”

The vaccination clinic at the Bradley Centre will run Tuesday to Saturday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Moco said another clinic has been added this Monday, which has a lot of spaces still available.

There are also three vaccine clinics planned at schools beginning next month.

The school clinics will be at Blenheim District Secondary School on December 6, 2021, Wallaceburg District Secondary School on December 13, and Tilbury District Secondary School on December 20.

All school clinics run from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m. and everyone is welcome to get the shot at those clinics.

“I don’t think any kid likes getting a vaccination but what we have been hearing is that they see other people in their lives get vaccinated and feel left out,” said Moco. “Some of them have been interested in doing their part and it’s kind of neat seeing that mindset in young people.”

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Kids COVID vaccine campaign ramps up in the capital amid concerns over new variant – CTV Edmonton



Ottawa’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign for children ramped up on Saturday as thousands of kids between 5 and 11-years-old rolled up their sleeves for their first shot.

All seven of Ottawa’s community vaccination clinics are now offering paediatric doses this weekend.

The push to immunize as many as possible has been amplified by concerns over a new variant emerging from southern Africa.

Ottawa’s clinics were running full speed Saturday; there were lineups outside some sites.

“A lot of relief that we’re finally able to get the shots in the kiddos and excited about the next one,” said Toufic Zayoun, after their kids received the first shot.

More than 1,400 doses were administered Friday to kids between 5 and 11 in the capital. As of Friday afternoon, Ottawa Public Health said nearly 5,000 appointments had been booked for the first weekend.

This comes though as concerns of a new COVID variant emerge. The Omicron variant, first detected in southern Africa, appears to be more transmissible.

“I think it’s too early to panic,” said Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng, an Ottawa critical care physician.

“We haven’t had any solid data to show it could evade the vaccine, it’s hard to gauge how it would respond in our setting where we have extremely good vaccination rates.”

For now, Dr. Kyeremanteng is pushing for continued caution and encourages immunization.

“To me the message that’s loud and clear right now is we need to think about global vaccinations very seriously,” he said.

The new variant of concern is already on the minds of parents too.

“Any new variant that comes up is always concerning and it’s just nice to have that extra layer of protection for the kids now too,” said Christie Cowan, after her two kids got their first shot Saturday.

She’s hopeful increased immunization will mean a more normal heart ahead for kids in the capital.

“If this means schools stay open, especially after Christmas, this means everything to them,” said Cowan.

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