Health officials in Toronto are stepping up efforts to vaccinate children with one strain of the rotavirus vaccine after a local obstetrician complained that he was denied a supply due to ethical objections.
Rotavirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in young children, especially those under the age of 5. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diarrhea and vomiting are the most common consequences of contracting the disease.
And last week, the obstetrician told CBC that he refused to provide a dose of COVID-19 for pregnant women and little kids because of medical ethics, invoking the physician-patient relationship.
“There is nothing worse in the world than to take a child and bring them into the world where there is no hope of them being well,” Dr. Frank Imerenda said in a media conference. “This vaccine is for the benefit of all children.”
But Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins, who says he fully supports the safe use of the Rotavirus Vaccine but that it cannot be mandatory, responded that the obstetrician “has apparently reached into the mythology of the state to protect his own ‘privacy’ and that’s not OK.”
Local parents say the scandal is proof that they, as parents, are aware of where their children go to school, and that the government should be able to find an appropriately licensed and vetted doctor to administer it.
“For the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to still defend the indefensible is simply unconscionable,” parent Maggie Bobinson told the Toronto Star. “I don’t believe that a doctor should be allowed to deny medicine to a child simply because he or she is an obstetrician.”
According to Dr. Anja Jones-Rattray, the Ontario director of Infectious Disease at Sick Kids Hospital, the Rotavirus Vaccine is safe, effective and safe to give to every child, and that the Ontario government should “accept no exceptions” to make it mandatory.
Dr. Albert Delgado, the director of pediatric infectious diseases at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, told the CBC, “I think people really need to check into this with the Ministry of Health before they talk about second-guessing (them) and looking into the curriculum in other provinces.”
And parents, too, want to know why the ministry decided to have its obstetrician provide the vaccine to pregnant women, whose babies have not been vaccinated.
“There are OB’s in other provinces who are using that vaccine,” one parent told the Canadian Press. “This was completely needless.”
Health officials say their office has gotten more than 600 calls from concerned parents, and have told them that although there is no data linking immunization to fetal health, they are looking into whether there is a connection between vaccines and autism, which, last year, several studies found to be untrue.
Dr. Heidi Oetter, the provincial medical officer of health, says she believes “flu shots can be very valuable” in many cases, including babies, adolescents and children.
Some pediatricians are conflicted about the controversy, saying the responsibility for vaccinating patients ultimately lies with parents.
“I never, ever thought I’d see a time when this nation would hang itself on ethics of religious organizations,” Brian Laing, a pediatrician at Bancroft Children’s Hospital, told the CBC. “But we do. And we’re doing it here.”