TORONTO – The Toronto Star is reporting that Ontario’s health ministry is bringing Toronto Public Health closer to suggesting people get the vaccine, COVID-19, to prevent the illness whooping cough.
But, as WGEM reports, the province is still refusing to make the shot mandatory, after it suggested earlier this week that anti-vaccination sentiment was partly to blame for increased cases of whooping cough in Ontario.
Ontario’s first case of whooping cough — called pertussis in the U.S. — was confirmed in 2015, according to the Star. But a more recent study by the agency showed an upsurge this year, resulting in nearly 900 cases as of November.
That’s about 2,000 more cases than were seen in 2015, and close to quadruple that of 2017.
Public Health Ontario, which administers vaccinations to young children who are not covered by their parents’ health insurance, is the province’s branch of the health ministry.
It is making steps to make whooping cough available to those who don’t have a free vaccination, including giving teenagers who miss the vaccines due to illness “time off” or the promise of the vaccine instead.
Parents and others who miss it on schedule can have their children vaccinated.
However, some vaccines are not covered, including vaccines for whooping cough and Haemophilus influenzae type b, a bacteria that is believed to spread among humans because dogs can carry it for days after death.
Ontario says there are two licensed vaccines for whooping cough.
More than 26 million doses of vaccine have been administered in Ontario since 1971, according to the Star.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Tuesday his government would examine putting the vaccination requirements in a short-term plan – though those studying teen pregnancy would remain exempt.
And, at least one of Ford’s cabinet ministers has been for the legislation putting whooping cough in its place as part of a broader review of the province’s controversial Liberal policy.
Prior to Ford taking office in June, the Liberal government was at odds with some in the academic community over whether to include the vaccine in the provincial vaccine program.
Progressive Conservative Health Minister Christine Elliott, whose department manages public health, said Wednesday it was too early to make any changes to whooping cough vaccination requirements.
“We’re looking into what we’re going to do about [whooping cough] going forward,” she said in an interview.
The Canadian Press contributed to this report.