Calgary clinic to parents: Please don't bring unvaccinated kids
Published Tuesday, March 19, 2019 9:48PM EDT
An obstetrics and gynecology clinic in Calgary has put up a sign asking parents: “Please don’t bring any unvaccinated children.”
Dr. Fiona Mattatall said Chrysalis Obstetrics & Gynecology made the decision after Alberta Health Services confirmed a case of measles in Calgary earlier this month.
The clinic’s five doctors have long asked parents to leave unvaccinated children at home, but recently decided they needed a “visual reminder” in order to protect their most vulnerable patients, Dr. Mattatall explained.
She said these vulnerable patients include babies who are too young to be vaccinated and women whose immune systems are compromised by illnesses like cancer.
Dr. Mattatall said the decision presented a “moral dilemma” because the clinic doesn’t want to reduce access to health care, even for those who choose not to vaccinate.
“We’re not turning patients away,” she said. “Just don’t bring family members who would pose a risk,” she added.
“It would be a very different scenario for a pediatrician,” she went on.
The reaction to the message has so far been mostly positive, but at least one member of the public who opposes vaccination called the clinic to complain.
The person was “quite verbally abusive to our staff,” according to Dr. Mattatall. “They said they would bring their unvaccinated children to now sit in our clinic,” she added. “Please don’t.”
Dr. Mattatall said the clinic will consider special accommodations for parents of unvaccinated children who can’t find child care, like putting them in a separate room as soon as they arrive.
Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said he agrees that the decision to ban unvaccinated people can be “tricky” for physicians to make.
“On the one hand, physicians and clinics are really trying to protect their patients,” he told CTV News Channel on Tuesday. “(Some) are more susceptible to getting the infection or having a bad outcome.”
“On the other hand, health care is for everyone in Canada,” he went on. “We shouldn’t be doing the shame and blame game with people who are unvaccinated.”
Dr. Bogoch said clinics may want to consider creative options like scheduling unvaccinated patients at the end of the day when other patients have gone home.
He also patients also have a duty to stop the virus from spreading. People who think they may have symptoms of measles – which can include fever, cough, runny nose, spots in the mouth and/or a skin rash -- should call ahead to warn clinics, he said.
Dr. Bogoch added that although measles is “highly contagious” the level of vaccination in Canada is “quite high” so the risk of getting measles is generally “very, very low.”
Health Canada reports that about 89 per cent of Canadian children had received the recommended dose of the measles vaccine by the age of two.
Endemic measles was eradicated in Canada in 1998 but can still be acquired abroad. Recently, it has been spreading in British Columbia where there have been 17 confirmed cases. One case has also been confirmed in Toronto this year.