Manda­tory vac­ci­na­tion not part of new health act

New leg­is­la­tion aims for a top-to-bot­tom re­think­ing of how gov­ern­ment han­dles health

The Aurora (Labrador City) - - Saltwire Homes - BY DAVID MA­HER

Man­dated vac­ci­na­tions are not part of new health care leg­is­la­tion that pro­vides a topto-bot­tom re­think­ing of how gov­ern­ment han­dles health care.

Health Min­is­ter John Hag­gie in­tro­duced the Pro­tec­tion and Pro­mot­ing of Pub­lic Health Act on Tues­day, which aims to have health care con­sid­er­a­tions fac­tored into all de­ci­sions in all de­part­ments of the gov­ern­ment.

The leg­is­la­tion gives the gov­ern­ment op­tions for deal­ing with ev­ery­thing from full-scale pan­demics to help­ing en­force bi­cy­cle hel­mets for the prov­ince. The “health in all pol­icy” ap­proach out­lined in the act will re­quire all gov­ern­ment de­part­ments to think about health im­pli­ca­tions in any laws or poli­cies they de­velop.

While the spirit of the act is to pro­mote the bet­ter health of the pub­lic, one thing it can­not do is force peo­ple to get vac­ci­nated. The pre­vi­ous leg­is­la­tion did leave room for a min­is­ter to make vac­ci­na­tion manda­tory, but it was never en­acted.

Hag­gie says the gov­ern­ment can­not force peo­ple to get vac­ci­nated, out of re­spect for in­di­vid­ual free­doms en­shrined in the Char­ter of Rights, re­gard­less of how ben­e­fi­cial vac­cines are to pub­lic health.

“I’m sure there are groups of peo­ple out there who would say we should have manda­tory vac­ci­na­tion. I’m equally cer­tain there are peo­ple out there who will say vac­ci­na­tion should be to­tally op­tional,” said Hag­gie.

The leg­is­la­tion gives power to re­gional health au­thor­i­ties to cre­ate poli­cies that work to­ward mak­ing res­i­dents health­ier — but the def­i­ni­tions are in­ten­tion­ally vague. Pro­mot­ing pub­lic health could mean con­sid­er­a­tions for new wa­ter man­age­ment sys­tems or even al­low for new reg­u­la­tions for the fast-food in­dus­try. In Que­bec, sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion al­lowed the gov­ern­ment to crack down on sell­ing toys with chil­dren’s fast-food meals, for ex­am­ple.

The 55-page act is largely made up of le­gal lan­guage al­low­ing for some pre­vi­ously un­con­sti­tu­tional health prac­tices to take place. For ex­am­ple, if a per­son con­tracts a deadly, highly con­ta­gious dis­ease, health au­thor­i­ties should have le­gal grounds to quar­an­tine the per­son — even if it’s against

“We were re­ally pleased to see a fo­cus on non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases. The things that are killing res­i­dents of New­found­land and Labrador are not the choleras of pre­vi­ous eras. It’s cancer, it’s heart dis­ease, it’s di­a­betes.”

Dr. Dar­rell Wade, pres­i­dent of the New­found­land and Labrador Pub­lic Health As­so­ci­a­tion

their will. Those pro­vi­sions will have to be tested in court, but Hag­gie says he be­lieves any such ex­treme mea­sures are pro­tected un­der the new leg­is­la­tion. Hag­gie also granted as­sur­ances that the bar for any such mea­sures is very high.

“If you look at what we have now, it would not pass a char­ter chal­lenge. You could drive a bus through it,” said Hag­gie.

“That bit is all de­signed to bal­ance the needs to so­ci­ety as a whole and its pro­tec­tion and the rights of the in­di­vid­ual. It passes a rea­son­able le­gal test at the mo­ment of pro­tect­ing the in­di­vid­ual’s rights and pro­vid­ing them with routes of ap­peal, manda­tory re­view of or­ders and pro­tec­tion of the law.”

The act also cre­ates dis­tinct def­i­ni­tions for chronic or non­com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases, such as cancer or heart dis­ease.

Dr. Dar­rell Wade, pres­i­dent of the New­found­land and Labrador Pub­lic Health As­so­ci­a­tion, says it is the “most pro­gres­sive piece of pub­lic health leg­is­la­tion in the coun­try.”

“We were re­ally pleased to see a fo­cus on non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases. The things that are killing res­i­dents of New­found­land and Labrador are not the choleras of pre­vi­ous eras. It’s cancer, it’s heart dis­ease, it’s di­a­betes,” Wade said.

“For the min­is­ter and gov­ern­ment to re­ally fo­cus on some of these causes of dis­ease is re­ally im­por­tant for us.”

The leg­is­la­tion is ex­pected to come into law on Jan. 1.

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