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March 12, 2015 – Most provinces are not meeting national immunization targets for key vaccines, according to a new C.D. Howe Institute report. In “A Shot in the Arm: How to Improve Vaccination Policy in Canada,” authors Colin Busby and Nicholas Chesterley examine why some provinces are more successful than others at reaching immunization targets.

“Too much of the public’s attention has been on ‘anti-vaxxers’ when the focus should be on improving government policies for those parents who are hesitant or delay vaccination of their children,” remarked Chesterley.

The authors pay particular attention to Ontario, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador. Alberta’s model focuses on early interventions whereas Ontario’s on making immunization decisions mandatory in schools. Both models have their advantages, but neither province has reached national vaccination coverage targets. Newfoundland and Labrador has a policy design similar to Alberta’s, but overall has the highest vaccination coverage in Canada.

“Because Ontario does not track the immunization status of children until they enter elementary school, there is a major gap that limits opportunities for targeted outreach and focused responses to outbreaks. Vaccination records need to begin at birth,” stated Busby.

The authors provide some basic principles of a good vaccination policy framework including:

  • Similar to Ontario, instituting mandated choice for parents, which preserves their right to choose;
  • Tracking immunization status from birth, which has proven effective in Newfoundland and Labrador, to better identify vulnerable regions in the event of an outbreak and better remind parents of the importance of immunization; and
  • Pass reforms to ensure getting immunized is as easy as possible and that new parents be strongly encouraged to make a vaccination decision.

Chesterley concludes, “We believe that well-designed vaccination policies could achieve national targets while still accommodating choice.”

The C.D. Howe Institute is an independent not-for-profit research institute whose mission is to raise living standards by fostering economically sound public policies. It is Canada’s trusted source of essential policy intelligence, distinguished by research that is nonpartisan, evidence-based and subject to definitive expert review. It is considered by many to be Canada’s most influential think tank. 

Click here for the full report.

For more information contact: Colin Busby, Senior Policy Analyst, C.D. Howe Institute and Nicholas Chesterley, Clarendon Scholar, SSHRC Doctoral Fellow, and DPhil Candidate at the University of Oxford. Phone: 416-865-1904 Ext. 9997; E-Mail: kmurphy@cdhowe.org.