Toronto Mayor John Tory reaffirmed his belief in vaccination Thursday, saying that while it is “almost certain” the strain of coronavirus spread in Toronto is from Mexico, “we’re not going to stop and we’re not going to stop and say we have to prove it.”
“The truth is, it doesn’t matter. I mean, it doesn’t matter what a person is vaccinated for. It doesn’t matter if you’re immunized against the flu. You still can get it and you do get it and you can die from it,” he said.
Mr. Tory acknowledged that he, a Catholic, has had his share of reservations about vaccinating his three children, but he promised that they are up to date. “I am not a scientist, and so I am not going to jump to the conclusions. I’m a believer in it, and so my family’s up to date,” he said.
The city’s chief medical officer said she isn’t optimistic the rate of vaccines being given will be enough, though, to stem the threat.
“Clearly with a viral, airborne disease like this, especially among school children, and the kind of respiratory disease that it is, we need to fill our vaccines,” Dr. Victoria Lee told reporters.
Dr. Lee said she hoped vaccination rates would rise at one of Toronto’s community hubs, though she cautioned that it is difficult to count on that since the annual flu shot for children — administered through doctors — is administered twice a year and each shot is given at different times.
Tory also defended his decision to call in the province for help for Toronto’s public health unit. He said it has become clear that the hands of public health are tied. “It is the province’s responsibility to put that capacity in place,” he said.
Ford’s call to the ministry of health, and then Health Minister Christine Elliott, for help, “can only be viewed as a political ploy to try to drag the feds back into the game,” said David Palmer, a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.
Dr. Palmer noted that Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins’ says he has asked Ontario’s health regulator to look into Toronto’s vaccination figures.
“An announcement is being made that some inspection is going to take place,” Dr. Palmer said. “And this is an obvious way for the Ford government to try to curry support by reducing the costs associated with vaccines.”
Dr. Palmer also remarked that in addition to Toronto’s record low vaccine rates, the province has also seen fall in its overall vaccination coverage, which fell from 82.9 percent in 2017 to 82.4 percent in 2018.
Mr. Tory said he does not believe the province’s health issues surrounding vaccines are underhand. “My government’s totally committed to the whole pan-Canadian vaccine initiative,” he said.
However, he did stress that if parents don’t vaccinate their children, the province has no problem with that as long as the city is able to keep up.
Despite the absence of enthusiasm for mandatory vaccinations, however, Toronto Public Health has seen cases of 11.8 percent of Windsor residents in 2018 who have remained unvaccinated after receiving four influenza vaccinations, and 18.6 percent of people living in Niagara who, though not vaccinated, received three vaccinations were still opting out and not getting the flu shot.
That did not diminish Mr. Tory’s enthusiasm.
“I think the whole world has recognized the importance of getting shots. We are actually getting away from things like it being somehow this nanny-like thing to think that getting vaccinated would somehow put you at risk,” he said.