Nearly two-thirds of parents in Toronto say they are “certain or somewhat likely” to get their young children vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV), according to a survey released Monday by eHealth Ontario.
The findings, from the final public-opinion survey commissioned by the national health-care board and the Toronto public-health unit, come as the province struggles to immunize all 3.5 million public school students against the sexually transmitted infection.
The survey found that two-thirds of parents in Toronto said they had already sent their kids to school with an up-to-date HPV vaccine. In the fall, the province had launched a case-by-case review, involving roughly 5,800 children, that aimed to give priority to those who hadn’t been vaccinated.
But last month, Ontario Health Minister Helena Jaczek announced that more than 500,000 of those children had been vaccinated and that the government wouldn’t follow through with a case-by-case review.
“We would not provide immunization priority access without clinical evidence,” Jaczek said, in a statement published on the ministry’s website. “These studies were meant to raise awareness, not make parents worry that they are taking too long to immunize their children.”
The issue remains the subject of heated debate. There are concerns that vaccines have been overused and unfairly blamed for a number of preventable illnesses, including autism. While the number of children who aren’t vaccinated is growing, it’s nowhere near what the anti-vaccine crowd argues – and has limited to little effect on public health.
According to the Ontario Institute for Health Research, there is also no definitive link between vaccines and autism. Last year, the lead researcher in a study of two studies suggesting a link between autism and vaccines was forced to step down, amid accusations of research misconduct and a subsequent disclosure that he had not been licensed by the U.S. government. In an interview with The Post, Fletcher, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said the assertion that he had fabricated data was baseless.
In December, a report from the Toronto Public Health unit concluded that few parents in the city have been demanding their children be immunized against the virus. For nearly a decade, the organization has conducted a pediatrics division survey and sent a survey to parents about their child’s immunization history. This year, 1,468 parents responded, of whom 82.9 percent said they had vaccinated their children. On the low end of the results, 77.9 percent said their kids had received all the vaccines for which they were recommended.
“While we cannot be certain if there are still unauthorized children to be vaccinated, it appears that they are no longer being immunized,” the group’s summary said.
A majority of parents (61.7 percent) told the Toronto public-health board they didn’t believe the province’s programs to vaccinate children against HPV. But more than 80 percent said they would send their kids to school, even if they hadn’t had all the vaccines recommended for them.