Liberals would add COVID-19 shots to schools’ immunization lists, Del Duca says

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File: Ontario Liberal Party Leader Steven Del Duca
File: Ontario Liberal Party Leader Steven Del Duca Photo by Nick Iwanyshyn /The Canadian Press

Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca says he will add the COVID-19 vaccination to the list of mandatory immunizations for school children if elected premier.

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“If elected, Ontario Liberals will make the COVID-19 vaccine for kids part of the universal roster of vaccines that are required for kids to attend publicly funded schools right across Ontario,” Del Duca said Saturday in a campaign stop in Ottawa.

Ontario’s immunization of School Pupils Act was passed in 1990 and lists nine mandatory Immunizations: pertussis (whooping cough), diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, meningococcal disease and varicella (chicken pox).

“We’re going to add the Covid-19 vaccine to that list and we’re going to do that because the science is settled on this,” he said.

“We know vaccines help our kids.”

Only 40 per cent of Ontario kids aged 5-11 have received both doses of the vaccine, he said.

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It’s a gamble for Liberals. In Ottawa, 84 per cent of the population has had at least two doses of the vaccine, including about 65 per cent in the 5-11 age group. But mandatory vaccinations have been a polarizing issue and a key driver of protests like the three-week long occupation of downtown Ottawa.

Asked about the risk, Del Duca accused Conservative leader Doug Ford of being “weak on science and weak on vaccines” and catered to “fringe elements” in his base.

“There are about 100 days until the next school year begins and I don’t want kids to be at risk,” said Del Duca, who has two young daughters. “I don’t want frontline education workers at risk either.”

Current exemptions in the existing legislation would apply to the COVID-19 vaccine, he said.

Del Duca was to head to Kingston for events Saturday afternoon, before returning to Toronto for a meet and greet with supporters Saturday night.

Correction: Liberal leader Steven Del Duca said there are “about 100” days until school begins. An earlier version of this story contained an incorrect number.

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